This week, the sage of Omaha, Warren Buffett, one of the more savvy investors of the past three decades, made a bold and profound statement in his recent annual letter to the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders:
“Culture, more than rule books,
determines how an organization behaves.”
It’s amazing to think that when we first began researching, writing and consulting on corporate culture in 1979, my then partner Dr. Larry Senn and I had an uphill battle even getting CEOs and serious business people to meet with us to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of their corporate culture and how they could improve their business through culture change.
Thirty years later and you can hardly pick up a business article or book without some mention of corporate culture. I just did a Google search for “Corporate Culture” and got 15,100,000 hits!
So, I have a question: Why don’t more CEOs and senior executives understand the power of corporate culture and use it to their advantage to improve business performance?
I have spent the last 30 years of my business and consulting career seeking the answer to this question. And what I’ve found is that there are multiple reasons. That’s why I’ve started this blog to help clarify corporate culture (and to have a public place for my thoughts and ideas).
Culprit number 1 in the search for the lack of understanding and respect for corporate culture as a business tool, the culture gurus, who for the past three decades (ever since the publishing of “In Search of Excellence”) have been focusing entirely too much on the outward manifestation of culture, that is observable behaviors, and not enough on what really creates corporate culture in the first place! I believe that the majority of those involved in consulting and writing about corporate culture and culture change have been far too focused on behaviour, with culture trainings and executive coaching as their antidotes, and have missed the two primary shapers of corporate culture: repetitive business processes and the activities of the senior leadership team.
I’ll talk more about these in later posts.