When any movement gains momentum for a sustained period of time, the “[Insert Movement] is Dead” article appears like clockwork. The corporate culture movement is no exception, yet the recent death knell piece in MIT Sloan Management Review, The End of Corporate Culture as We Know It, is more perceptive than prophetic because the future is already here.
Having worked in the world of culture in various forms – leader, builder, guide – for the past decade and exposed to a myriad of organizational cultures, I have come to believe we are all striving for the same thing – the best way for humans to work together, produce great results and feel good about how it is done.
Therefore, most corporate value systems and cultures connect to three things:
The actual results of mergers and acquisitions don’t always live up to expectations.
M&A growth strategies promise a multitude of strategic opportunities; from rapid growth, to elimination of competition, to access to new markets. And many organizations are currently, or have, embarked on merger and acquisition growth strategies to varying effect.
When asked about the primary causes of these mixed results, most leaders cite a misalignment between the two organizations’ cultures. This friction can wreak havoc as the members of different groups assimilate to drive the performance gains that M&A strategies forecast.
It’s been over fifty years since Title VII, the section of The Civil Rights Act that prohibits workplace discrimination. But how far have we really come?
Fortune’s data team recently released their findings on the diversity and inclusion practices of the companies on this year’s Fortune 500 list. The big reveal?
Only 3% of this year’s companies are transparent about the demographics of their workforce. And of those sixteen transparent companies, 72% of senior executives are white males.
Now, more than ever, companies and organizations are feeling pressure to not only be more representative but also more inclusive of people from traditionally marginalized groups. Reports on gender and racial diversity in tech have forced the industry to make public commitments to increase diversity in their workplaces and inspired other companies to do the same.
Millennials are demanding more inclusive work cultures. Our sociopolitical environment has made conversations about the inclusion of marginalized people in every area of life absolutely critical. And according to Deloitte’s 2017 Human Capital Report, 78% of respondents now believe diversity and inclusion is a competitive advantage.
But if major companies can’t even talk publicly about diversity, what do conversations inside of these organizations look like?
“Earlier this year, an employee wanted to send a customer a T-shirt with our logo as a gift. There was nothing special about this particular shirt. It was an ordinary, 100% cotton crew neck. But by the time this employee got approval—factoring in his own time and everyone else’s up the org chart who had to weigh in before signing off on the request—the cost of this t-shirt had ballooned to at least $200.”
Many organizations today are trying to hedge against inflated processes like these by changing their organizational structures. Hootsuite, for example, appointed a “Czar of Bad Systems” to help improve internal processes.
In today’s rapidly-evolving business environment, growing organizations need to remain fast and efficient. And some large, geographically dispersed and complex organizations seem to be able to maintain a level of agility despite their size.
In 1989, Kenwyn Smith published a study entitled “Fix the Women”, describing a consulting situation characterized by fighting between two women in a troubled unit of a state hospital. After assessing the behaviors, the researchers determined the women’s hostility was actually fueled by feelings of competitiveness among the three senior men in the unit.
This is a phenomenon called parallel process thinking: when dynamics of one system are picked up and enacted by another system. In this case, the competitive dynamics of the men in the hospital unit fueled the conflict between these two women.
Consultants don’t always think of the theories associated with the work we do. They become part of us and our work. We talk to people and through years of experience, theories in behavioral science organically drive what we do, how we speak to people, how we solve problems, how we help, and how we advise.
When focusing on results with clients, especially within a limited timeframe, energy is usually spent toward practical application. But this theory is important because it affects everybody. If you can understand parallel process thinking, then it has potential to serve as a guide for better problem-solving.
The human mind has an incredible capacity to learn, recognize patterns, and connect pieces of information together to find new ways to approach old problems.
Unfortunately, our problem-solving abilities are limited by individual knowledge and experience. When problems are large and complex, we might not have the right data available to have any hope of finding a solution if we go it alone. And when we get stuck, collaboration can be a powerful way to find the best solution.
By sharing knowledge and experience amongst a diverse group, we can often tackle complex problems that cannot be solved alone.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to lead a webinar about dancing bears in colorful ball gowns. I mean, who hasn’t? The subtext here (and arguably the more important focus) was to discover new methods of disruption and innovation.
As any business expands — either domestically or internationally — it can be a challenge to maintain a consistent company culture. Communication might suddenly need to bridge time zones, and messages will need to stay consistent despite language or cultural barriers. An expansion can affect organizational design and the centralization of resources, potentially making employees feel detached.
Building a business is like raising a child. We see them grow up over the years, go through hard times and good, learn from each success and failure, and eventually blossom into something more wonderful than we ever could have imagined.
One of the more challenging stages of the process is a business’ adolescence. It’s no longer a scrappy startup but not yet a full-grown business with established and consistent processes.