Corporate Culture

A Great Culture in Action

Several years ago I had joined a large international company at a senior level. There were several reasons for the decision to join them since my incentive to do so was not that strong.

At that stage I was running my own very successful business and had no pressing need to change any of the many things that were going well for me. However, one of my key reasons for the move was that this was a large company that had many elements of the “excellence” that I had by now come to identify and recognize as a defining success factor in any business. For me it was an opportunity to see my expectations of how an effective Corporate Culture operated and how it delivered its business results.

I had already done a number of strategic development exercises for a number of clients over a wide spectrum of industry and had clearly formulated my thinking on Corporate Culture and how the “excellence” factor is created, delivered, and maintained. In this instance the senior management team was very cohesive. The focus was on the business and the delivery of its products and services. There was a straightforwardness and openness to the actions and interactions. The people down through the company had a clear and obvious level of respect for the Principals. The Principals in turn had a simple, charismatic, and almost visionary style of leadership and communication. They were open, approachable, honest, and straightforward. The vision and mission for the business were two simple long-lasting objective statements about growth and their position in the world market. You could ask most people anywhere in the company and they could articulate the substance of the message.

As I watched the company grow, I saw these elements slowly being diverted. Other agendas were creeping in. Some new added senior managers had their own interpretations of the Mission and the Vision. I had a closed-door meeting with the Principals and described to them what they had achieved and what was slowly happening around them that was diluting this achievement.

What was happening was that as the company grew further, the need to expand the senior group made the dynamics and the chemistry harder to maintain. Employees, while still loyal to the founding principles (and Principals), had started to form other allegiances—driven largely by the new “camps” that one or two of the newer senior managers were bringing to the table. These “camps” or allegiances had progressively different agendas—not dramatically different but these were now focused on different senior people, which in turn started to create the “camps” or divisions within the various functional areas. With different focus areas emerging people would respond to their local senior leadership in a way that was not fully in step with the overall corporate approach.

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