As I mentioned in a previous blog posting (A Weekend with Andrew Carnegie), my family and I recently enjoyed a fabulous Art, Wine and Music weekend at Skibo Castle, the family home of Andrew Carnegie in the Scottish Highlands.
One of the highlights of the weekend was an evening meal accompanied by a series of wines from a single winemaking family in the Rhone Valley of France. The wines were from Chateau Mont-Redon in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region of the southern Rhone Valley. One of the owners of the vineyard, Jerome Abeille, was on hand to talk about each wine, its characteristics, history, composition of various grape varieties, and why it is being paired with each dish. In the four course evening dinner we sampled four different wines from this vineyard, a white, two reds and a sweet dessert wine.
What I learned is that the wines of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region are actually made from a blend of several grape varieties. These gloriously rich wines (the majority are reds) portray the hot climate and spicy herbs of the southern rocky lands and are blended from the 14 permitted grape varieties, including Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the largest and most important wine appellation in the southern Rhône.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines and Corporate Culture
As I sat enjoying the food, wines and the jovial company I got to thinking about my favorite business subject, corporate culture (maybe it was the quantity and quality of the wine that helped as well).
If you don’t understand your corporate culture, you really don’t understand your business.
Many in the popular business press believe that it’s all about leadership, the one most important ingredient that drives business performance and creates corporate culture. But like the Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, corporate culture is a blend of many different elements within an organization and is not just a single entity. It’s a complex blend. And each company, while having many of the same elements driving the development of their corporate culture, has them in very different amounts and intensity. Some cultures are heavily driven by the values, beliefs and style of the founder. Some cultures are heavily influenced by the characteristics of the industry (retail companies attract a very different type of personality than an aerospace company or an investment bank). Some cultures are heavily influenced by a strong purpose while others are driven by the influence of large bonuses and sales commissions.
Over my 35 years of working with CEOs and senior teams on turnarounds and business improvement I have learned that there are five significant categories of inputs that go into making up a particular corporate culture. The specific characteristic of the culture depends on the mixture (blend in wine terms) of these key inputs. These five are:
- The characteristics of the industry
- The beliefs and behaviour of the founder and senior leaders
- The various subcultures within the company and their strong beliefs about the company, management and work
- Stories and Shared Beliefs about the company and its purpose
- Internal Policies, Systems and Work Processes that drive certain behaviours
The specific characteristics of each of these five culture drivers, plus the strength of each, all blend together to create a particular corporate culture and gives the company its specific “personality”. For example, Virgin and BA both fly business and holiday passengers around the world using many of the same makes of airplane, but their corporate cultures are very different. It’s the mix and content of each of the five “culture drivers” that create the vast differences between companies in the same industry. Culture is a blend, not a single entity.
Next time you open a bottle of rich and spicy Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine, pause for a moment and think about the unique blend of grape varieties that make up that particular wine, then give some thought to your own corporate culture and why it has its various strengths and weaknesses.
Those who understand why will always defeat those who just understand what or how.
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
John also writes thriller novelsC