Thursday, December 3, 2015

Culture Means Business

Today, corporate culture directly impacts every component of a business organisation's performance ranging from leadership effectiveness to business strategy and planned corporate mergers. Culture also directly impacts the success of operations, human resources, decision-making processes, customer services, sales & marketing, policies, organization structure and R&D. But too often, corporate culture is seen as vague, undefined and disconnected from business performance. As a result, companies do not even try to measure, manage or develop their cultures.

Quite simply, corporate culture is the collective belief system that people within a company have about their ability to compete in the market place and how they act on those belief systems to carry value-added services and products to customers and bring profits to the company. Corporate culture is reflected through the attitudes, behaviours, belief systems, commitments, values, decision-making processes, innovation nad productivity that impact the long term as well as day-to-day rules and rigid organization structure in favour of fewer rules and more informal structure that promotes sharing and championing new ideas, talent and resources.

In this new, radically changed business age, the paramount goal of corporate culture is improved performance of individuals and business enterprises. Certain other goals like reinforcement of ethical standards at all levels of the organization, encouragement of reasonable risk taking & innovation, creation of worker empowerment and so on, also need to be accomplished.

Recent developments in the business world have demonstrated that size and corporate pedigree do not allow a company to overcome a failed business culture. However, a strong culture sustains a business during hard times and serves as a reservoir for key ideas and initiatives that carry a company through difficult times. In order to build a strong corporate culture, certain issues need to be considered carefully. Firstly, as many business plans and mergers fail when the corporate culture is unable to support the new strategy, there should be no gap between business planning and culture planning. Secondly, corporate culture should embrace change because if there is no change, there will be no gain. Thirdly, natural change leaders should be identified and empowered to lead the change process. Fourthly, there should be reinforcement of ethical conduct at all levels of the organization. This is best accomplished by creating and maintaining one unified culture for the entire company. Fifthly, the top management should be in the forefront of the culture building process. Sixthly, it should always be remembered that corporate culture is about behaviours. Politics, punishment, projection of blame, persistently negative attitudes and obsessive, compulsive behaviours should be replaced with positive behaviours.

Understanding and overcoming barriers to culture building process is also important to the business survival. Corporate culture cannot be changed through technology, restructuring, BPR, etc. It requires an individualized approach with processes that are right for the company. Even changing the name of the company is not a substitute for culture building. Further, in the light of radical changes facing most companies today, ambitious goals should be set to ensure success. And, most importantly, there should be an on-going commitment to culture rather than waiting until something terrible goes wrong.

For too long, sound corporate culture and management have been pushed aside in favour of failed and overused fads of right-sizing/down-sizing, business process re-engineering, just-in-time, total quality management, various go-for growth strategies, traditional business planning and assorted financial manipulators that have left the business landscape littered with bankrupt and under-performing companies, wasted technologies, lost assets and derailed careers & talent. Given the business world's appetite for latest fads and fix-its, there is hope for corporate culture to become the latest buzz-word.

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