Corporate culture is one of the most important elements to any organization’s success and prosperity. I love the way that Inc. defines corporate culture (http://www.inc.com/encyclopedia/corporate-culture.html):
“the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature. Corporate culture is rooted in an organization’s goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community. As such, it is an essential component in any business’s ultimate success or failure.”
The middle sentence identifies how corporate culture is rooted in the “organization’s goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community.” This is an important list for many reasons. Here are just a few:
Goals. Knowing what your organization wants to accomplish is important. Knowing how your organization will accomplish those goals is even more important. Corporate culture means that the “how” supersedes the “what.” Corporate culture impinges on ethics and values.
Strategies. Corporate culture encompasses the character and the makeup of the team. These factors affect strategies. The strategies that work in Company A will not necessarily work in Company B. Company B might require different strategies due to its corporate culture. Strategies must respect and be amenable to corporate culture.
Structure. Some organizations are very hierarchical and autocratic. Others have a much flatter structure and are more consensus driven. It is the corporate culture that either precludes or invites one or the other.
Approaches. How an organization chooses to interact with its workforce, customers, investors, and the community is deeply embedded in its corporate culture. I am sure that all of us can think of dismal disasters and superstar performances in each of these areas. Whatever those events were—or will be—they are all driven by the corporate culture. This again is how and why corporate culture is so extremely important.
It takes a brave business leader to evaluate the corporate culture rigorously. Where the corporate culture is sound and supportive, it must be continuously reaffirmed. Where the corporate culture is inefficacious, it must be reenvisioned and changed. Only by exercising both actions will the organization continuously maintain and refine its corporate culture. In choosing to do the hard work of maintaining and refining the corporate culture, the organization will grow to success levels that would otherwise never been possible.