Can You Rely on Your Corporate Culture?


Facts from paper are not the same as facts from people. The reliability of the people giving you the facts is as important as the facts themselves.  ~Harold S. Geneen

Reliability is an important issue in our fast-paced, modern lifestyles.  We rely on our smartphones and most of the time they work perfectly.  Not quite the same level of reliability when it comes to our network provider service. Dead zones, dropped calls, texts and voice mail messages that arrive hours or days late. We require reliability to function and manage out day-to-day activities.

We rely on our banking and credit card services for accuracy and reliability to reduce the hassle of financial dealings, large and small.  But the rise in alternative Financial-Technology players in the areas of payments (PayPal, Apple Pay), loans and even money transfer and forex services is the result of the traditional banks being more and more unreliable in terms of service and functionality.

Probably the major transformation over my lifetime in reliability is the automobile.  When56 chevy I was in high school in the early 1960’s my car was constantly breaking down and in need of checking for oil leaks, radiator overheating, battery drains and a hundred other annoyances. I couldn’t reliably just get in and drive for days without some sort of problem. And a little later I bought myself a sports car, a Lotus Esprit (a short fling at pretending to lotusbe James Bond I guess). Beautiful car.  Fast and sexy.  But totally unreliable.  Several times it broke down on the Los Angeles Freeway, during rush hour. I spent a fortune just getting it to be reliable.

Today, even though automobiles are much more complex, with both mechanical and electronic components, most of us experience near perfect reliability.  We don’t think twice about loading the kids and dogs in the car and heading to the beach or the mountains. We expect and get reliability. And life works when the things around us are reliable.

MIL_Marines_Few_Proud_lgAnd it’s not just machines or technology that can be reliable. A good example of organizational reliability is the Marine Corps.  Think about the Marines: the few, the proud. They have a connected community that is second to none, and it comes from the early indoctrination of every member of the Corps and the clear communication of their purpose and value system. It is completely clear that they are privileged to be joining an elite community that is committed to improvising, adapting, and overcoming in the face of any adversity. The culture is so strong that it glues the community together and engenders a sense of pride that makes them unparalleled. The shared and strong culture is what each Marine relies on when lives are on the line.

And reliability brings peace of mind.

Can you rely on your corporate culture?

In a thousand ways, day after day, executives, managers and employees trust the corporate culture to support them as they work towards delivering products and services to customers and clients. We rely on the culture to be aligned with the strategy and organisation structure.  We rely on the shared and habitual behaviours used by employees and our leadership to deliver the results and work environment required.

Corporate Culture is the company DNA.  A unique combination of behaviours, beliefs, assumptions and business processes (formal and informal) that over time have become the “habitual” approach management and employees use in solving business problems and interacting with each other, customers, clients and suppliers.

But the sad fact is, most of us take the culture for granted and expect that it is reliable and aligned with our internal needs and the needs of customers.  And, like my old car, unless alignment and reliability are built-in and maintained diligently, there are often too many breakdowns.  Breakdowns in communications, breakdowns in trust, breakdowns in deadlines, breakdowns in quality, breakdowns in service.  Most times the corporate culture is an unreliable asset, which quickly translates into a liability.

Do you know what your culture is? Do you know why your culture has certain strengths and weaknesses.

If you don’t understand your corporate culture, you don’t understand your business.

What will it take to make your corporate culture a reliable asset and not a liability?


Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!



About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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