Corporate culture is one of the most important elements to any organization’s success and prosperity. Inc. has an excellent definition of 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.”
A valuable exercise is to stop and think about what behaviors you experience in your organization. In so doing, you must face the fact that the behaviors—good or bad—exist because the corporate culture permits them to exist. That is a wonderful situation if the behaviors are good. It is a nightmare if the behaviors are bad.
We are each going to embrace and affirm a good corporate culture or we are each going to embrace and affirm a bad corporate culture. That is a pretty clear choice in my mind. Let’s embrace and affirm good corporate cultures wherever they may be found. When we come upon bad corporate cultures, let’s challenge them and aim to change them. This is a professional, ethical imperative.
Now, the question arises, how do we change the corporate culture? And before you even try to answer that question, first you must ask the question, can the corporate culture be changed? Because the how makes no sense without the can. Finally, you must assess your role in changing the corporate culture. You have many factors to consider such as:
How big is the organization?
How large is the inertia?
Who are the influencers?
What can you do?
Should you stay or leave?
Let’s consider that second factor concerning the size of the inertia. Inertia is a physics concept that refers to the tendency of an object that is in motion to remain in motion and the tendency of an object that is not in motion to remain at rest. Although it is a physics concept, it has many human illustrations. We all experience those inertia moments at various times and we see them in other people.
What is true for the individual is true for the corporate culture because the corporate culture by definition is the composite of all the individuals. When you want to change the corporate culture, knowing the magnitude of the inertia is crucial. You might find many dynamics in motion that need to be stopped. You might find certain aspects of the corporate culture that are at rest that need to begin moving. Your prospects for success and how you design your strategy are all dependent on the size of that inertia.
I remember once moving a very large piece of medical equipment on wheels. It took much more of my strength than I first realized to get it rolling. Once I got it rolling, I nearly took out a wall. It had much more inertia than I realized at the time. The good news about inertia is that once you understand it, you will know where to put your resources. You will be putting your resources where they will be most effective and where genuine needs exist. Without this inertial knowledge, you would be nothing more than a feather in a tornado. With this inertial knowledge, you will be a funneling force capable of redirecting energy, objects, and people.
Of course, the inertia of physics is rooted in unbending formulas and equations of the universe. Corporate culture inertia is rooted in people’s minds and hearts where formulas and equations do not always work. However, it is the minds and hearts of people that will move a mountain or create a new one.
Inertia never tells the whole story. Nevertheless, once you understand its size and configuration, then you can apply your energies where they will be most effective. Only then will you have an opportunity to change the corporate culture.