What to Look for in Identifying a Company’s Corporate Culture

1. The taproot of corporate culture is the organization’s beliefs and philosophy about how its affairs ought to be conducted – the reasons for why it does the things it does.

2. A company’s culture is manifested in the values and business principles that management preaches and practices, in official policies and practices, in its revered traditions and oft-repeated stories, in the attitudes and behaviors of employees, in the peer pressures that exist to display core values, in the company’s politics, in its approaches to people management and problem solving, in its relationships with external stakeholders, and in the chemistry and the personality that permeate its work environment.

3. The values, beliefs, and practices that undergrid a company’s culture can come from anywhere in the organization hierarchy.

4. Key elements of the culture often originate with a founder or other strong leader who articulated them as a set of business principles, company policies, or ways of dealing with employees, customers, vendors, shareholders, and other communities in which it operated.

5. The Role of Stories: Frequently, a significant part of a company’s culture is captured in the stories that get told over and over again to illustrate to newcomers the importance of certain values and the depth of commitment that various company personnel have displayed.

6. Perpetuating the Culture: Once established, company cultures are perpetuated in six important ways:

a. By screening and selecting new employees that will mesh well with the culture
b. By systematic indoctrination of new members in the culture’s fundamentals
c. By the efforts of senior group members to reiterate core values in daily conversations and pronouncements
d. By the telling and retelling of company legends
e. By regular ceremonies honoring members who display desired cultural behaviors
f. By visibly rewarding those who display cultural norms and penalizing those who do not

7. Forces that Cause a Company’s Culture to Evolve: New challenges in the marketplace, revolutionary technologies, and shifting internal conditions tend to breed new ways of doing things and, in turn, cultural evolution.

8. Company Subcultures: The Problems Posed by New Acquisitions and Multinational Operations: Values, beliefs, and practices within a company sometimes vary significantly by department, geographic location, division, or business unit. Global and multinational companies tend to be at least partly multicultural because cross-country organization units have different operating histories and working climates, as well as members who have grown up under different social customs and traditions and who have different sets of values and beliefs. Many companies that have merged with or acquired foreign companies have to deal with language- and custom-based differences. In today’s globalizing world, multinational companies are learning how to make strategy-critical cultural traits travel across country boundaries and create a workably uniform culture worldwide.

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