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 the influencers. Do you know who they are? And lest you answer too quickly, remember that a job title does not automatically equal influence. In any organization, it is those who have influence that are the genuine leaders. At its core, leadership is influence. Sometimes that comes with an impressive job title and sometimes it does not. Once you have located the authentic leadership, then you will know who the influencers are.
Identifying the influencers is key to executing corporate culture change. When you know who the influencers are and you understand how they think, what their goals are, their integrity, and their character, then you can deduce the options for corporate culture change. The influencers will drive that change. Knowing who they are tells you much about what that change might look like.
As with all these variables, knowing who the influencers are never tells the whole story. Nevertheless, once you understand the influencers, you at least have a much better idea of what the future may hold. In knowing that, you can commit to the future with an informed confidence and excitement about that corporate culture change.