John’s Note: The following is the first draft of the Introduction to a new book I am writing. A book prompted by readers of my last book suggesting I give them more detail, more “how to”, more specifics on corporate culture.
I will be putting successive chapters out on my blog, Rethinking . . . , in the hopes that it will stimulate readers and those interested in corporate culture and leadership to further the dialogue and also send me ideas and suggestions that I can work into this new book.
The book title is: The Seven Faces of Corporate Culture. Here is the first draft of the Introduction:
Introduction: The Seven Faces of Corporate Culture
Regard the holy trinity of change and progress: insight, implication and application.
On my office desk sits a small brass bust of a Buddha with four faces. Each of the four distinct sides sports a different facial expression. One shows contentment, the other amusement, another empathy and the fourth face laughter. The purpose of a Buddha with four faces in different directions is to ensure that no matter from which direction prayers emanate, the Buddha could hear them and respond. Sort of a spiritual omni-directional listening device.
The business concept of corporate culture reminds me of a multi-faced Buddha in the sense that corporate culture exists everywhere inside a company, no matter in which direction you look, yet the internal subcultures are not always the same. As one of my business partners likes to say, “Whether you like it or not, whether you designed it or let it happen, you have a corporate culture!”
For being such a popular business term (especially with “consultants” and the business press), corporate culture is still a mystery to most C-suite executives and managers, and even among business academics it remains poorly understood. There is no standard or agreed-upon definition and on the market today there are currently over 70 different corporate culture assessments, each purporting to diagnose your real culture. And even the large global consulting and executive search firms are now offering culture surveys and culture change programs. (If it’s branded by a big consulting firm it must be good, or at least expensive.)
In my recent book, LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture (The Principia Press, 2013), I took a practitioner’s scalpel to the entire corporate culture movement; from culture assessments to culture change methodologies to culture consultants in an attempt to find the most useful business principles in the vast ocean of culture literature. My goal was to provide CEO’s and business leaders practical insights and useful tools to better understand their own corporate culture and how it influences, both positively and negatively, tangible business performance.
A review in The Economist magazine (Jan. 11, 2014; Vol 410, No. 8869) called my book one of the most “sensible efforts in an otherwise charlatan-infested field”. Okay, so I’m experienced and sensible, and maybe a bit of charlatan!
In the past several months I have received many emails and letters from readers urging me to provide even more clarity and useable business applications relating to corporate culture and business performance.
After over 30-years consulting and advising on corporate culture and performance, I have consistently run into seven scenarios where costly business mistakes are being made due to a lack of understanding of corporate culture.
These seven scenarios are:
- Culture as a Hidden Business Risk
- Leadership Culture: Organizations are Shadow of the Leaders
- M&A: Avoiding the culture clash train wreck
- Business Turnaround: Culture and a sustainable turnaround
- Rapid Growth: How to avoid diluting your culture
- Start-up: Culture by design
- Building a Global Corporate Culture
This short book is designed to provide insights, implications and useful applications for these seven specific business scenarios, where a better understanding of corporate culture could prove the difference between success and failure.
Comments and suggestions welcome, and thanks for joining the conversation.