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Business Culture
Where Management Stops and Leadership Begins

by Harlan Goerger

In the past month I’ve had multiple conversations about business culture with organizations wanting to alter or change their current culture.

These organizations felt so strongly about this potential change they are willing to invest substantial assets to make it happen. So what is culture all about?

Have you ever heard two people in the same profession talk about where they work; one expounding how great a place it is to work and how people are lined up trying to get in? The other indicating they feel like a cog in a wheel and wish they could find another place to work. These views are most likely the results of the two different business cultures!

Imagine working at Microsoft or Apple in their beginning years and what that would have been like. Now imagine working for a company today that is 20 some years behind in technology and thinking. You’ve just experienced two very different cultures!

With that in mind is it any wonder companies that want top performance are talking about and examining their own culture!

As I began working on this article with my Mind Manager program, it went from an article to a book! There are five articles planned and even these will only touch the surface of this complicated yet vital area of business development!

In this first article we’ll examine what is it that makes up a company’s culture. Following articles will cover “What makes a culture”, “Why change a culture”, “How to change a culture” and “Changing a culture within a culture”. Each will provide you with a series of steps you can use.

Some definitions are a good place to start:

One dictionary definition is: The quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent or important within that society.

Paraphrased: Business Culture is what a company or organization focuses on as important and because of this; have certain beliefs and behaviors that dictate how they function.

So what does makeup a culture? Here are four areas to look at and understand to better determine what your culture looks like.

  1. How the organization looks at the world: If you were floating in the air like an unseen spirit, what would you hear in the conversations about customers, competitors, suppliers and others outside your organization?

    Is the conversation about how the organization has control over what happens or more of helplessness about what others do? Do your people feel in control of their own destiny or feel that others control them?

    If you asked your team who is in control, would they say they are as a company or that others outside your company are in control. Do they feel their creativity, ability and skill can direct the outside world or do they wait and react to the outside world?

  2. How the group functions with each other: We look at this from two angles:

    Systems and Process: This is where people look more at the systems and allow the systems to drive and direct the organization. Managers tend to use systems to make all their decisions and tend not to consider the “Human Element”. Communications is through systems and people are assumed to be able to understand and conform to the systems with little interpersonal contact. Mistakes and errors are avoided at all cost.

    Results and change driven: Yes there are systems and procedures in place, but they are viewed as tools, not law! People are encouraged to interact, bring in new ideas with out concern and challenge the systems if needed. The ultimate outcome and performance is far more important than any system. By the way, mistakes and errors are looked at as progress as long as they are not severe and lessons are learned.

    Groups tend to go one way or the other in various degrees. Which is more like your organization?

  3. How they talk to each other internally: Here are a few areas to observe.

    Create conflict for the sake of conflict. Henry Ford was known to do this regularly and his grandson, Henry Ford II told Lee Iacocca they needed to keep control of the VP’s by creating conflict between them. Wonder why Iacocca got fired when he refused. By the way, Ford was on the edge of bankruptcy under both Henry’s.

    Agree to disagree: This is quite different from Henry, rather it encourages constructive open dialog at all levels of the organization with out ramifications for disagreeing. It is understood it’s not personal, it’s business.

    Lack of respect for people: This is where people are things and are expendable. “We can always get someone to do this.” People haven’t the capacity to think, they need to be told how to do everything. Management may not even want people to think, because it may mean a loss of control.

    Built on respect for others. No matter who you are, there is respect for your abilities, skills and inputs. Individuals are encouraged to think for themselves and leadership backs them through good or bad results.

    Drive and demand: This may be more of a control issue than anything else. Yet this can create a culture that makes Marine Boot camps seem like playtime. If you think this does not exist, take a closer look.

    Mentoring and collaboration: Management engages the team and gets input, but decisions are made quickly and implemented. Leaders know someone still needs to get things moving and hold responsibility for performance.

    Take a look at the leadership in your organization, they create and direct the culture through their actions, talk and decisions.

  4. How they talk to the outside world:

    * What is the relationship to the supplies, customers and competitors?

    * Are suppliers looked at as leaches taking money or as viable and important partners?

    * Are customers an intrusion to your day or looked at as the purpose and reason for your organization to exist?

    * Are customers viewed as dumb and gullible or as viable intelligent people that require respect?

    * How are competitors viewed, as something to be crushed or someone that keeps you sharp and improving?

In this short an article it’s tough to do any in-depth view of each of these elements and others that have not been mentioned. Our intent is to give you enough to take a look and get a start on understanding your organization’s culture.

If you’re finding things you do not like, you can start making changes and move your culture in a different direction. Our future articles will give you more insight into what you can do.

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Kevin Hogan
Network 3000 Publishing
3432 Denmark #108
Eagan, MN 55123
(612) 616-0732

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