What’s this company culture everyone talks about?

We’re sure you already heard experts talking about how the company culture is the answer to pretty much everything that goes wrong in any company. Employees hate their jobs? Company culture can fix it. Your customers don’t really like you? You need a good company culture. Company culture seems to be some sort of panacea, named after the Greek goddess of Universal remedy, Panacea, also known as panchrest

Panacea

No one really talks about what company culture is (or isn’t) – experts would rather focus on how to change or improve it (probably assuming that most companies have one already). 

If most of the advice on how to change a company culture (i.e.: engaging people or listening to your customers) sound familiar to you, it’s because it’s nothing new. It all started in the 60s with the concept of Organizational climate which evoled in the 80s to become Organizational culture

Before trying to change it, it would help to understand what a company culture is. The first interesting thing we found is the fact that systematic differences in national cultures (according to a study conducted by IBM on 117,000 of its employees between 1967 and 1973). This can be explained by “four anthropological problem areas that different national societies handle differently: ways of coping with inequality, ways of coping with uncertainty, the relationship of the individual with her or his primary group, and the emotional implications of having been born as a girl or as a boy ” (more details on the site of Geert Hofstede, the author of the study)

The interesting things that we found is that there are different types of cultures: strong vs weak cultures, constructive, passive, and aggressive cultures, or the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument which distinguished between four types of culture: clan culture (internal focus and flexible), adhocracy culture (external focus and flexible), market culture (external focus and controlled) and hierarchy culture (internal focus and controlled)

To make things even more complicated, companies can also have sub-cultures and mergers and acquisitions between companies will not result in the merger between the cultures of the companies that merge.

Since only defining company culture with its types and characteristics will require more than a blog post, we will dedicate the next three or four posts to provding more information on how to understand company culture by answering the following questions:

– How can decision makers find out what the characteristics of the culture of their company are?

– Is the existing company culture organic, imposed by management, or a mix of both?

– What are the pros and cons of the existing company culture?

In our opinion, questioning the concept of company culture and the existing culture that the company may already have in place is the first important step in improving a company culture.

 

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