Sunday, October 01, 2006

October 9, 2006


The subject of "corporate culture" seems to be on everyone's mind these days; from the college graduate entering the job market, to the executive who is trying to improve management and productivity in his organization. It is the topic of interest at social and professional gatherings.

The perceptive manager understands the importance of establishing and controlling the work environment, including both logical and physical considerations. Unfortunately, many managers do not appreciate the concept of corporate culture and how to use it to their advantage.

Corporate culture pertains to the identity and personality of the company we work with, either in the private or public sectors. All companies have a culture; a way they behave and operate. They may be organized and disciplined or chaotic and unstructured. Either way, this is the culture the company has elected to adopt. In order for an employee to function and succeed, they must be able to recognize, accept and adapt to the culture.


Have you ever noticed how people react to foreign visitors; whether an exchange student or a visiting professional? The stranger may be welcomed, but may never be accepted unless that person can adapt to the norms of their new environment. If they do not, the members will shun the stranger and reject the alien from their culture. The same is true in business. If the new employee, consultant or visitor cannot adapt to the corporate culture, their chances for success are slight. The members of the culture will reject the person outright and will work against them.

The reason for this phenomenon is because people tend to prefer conformity in their culture. Conformity represents a harmonious environment where the behavior and actions are predictable. Most people have a deeply rooted desire for a sense of order and stability in their lives, which is what conformity provides. A stable environment promotes self-confidence in the members of the culture and allows them to concentrate on their work.


Corporate culture deals with how we see ourselves and others. We act on our perceptions, not necessarily what occurs in reality. The culture greatly influences our perceptions and behavior. For example, our values and beliefs may distort what happens in fact. Gossip, propaganda, and a sensational press, deals with what people want to hear, not necessarily what happens in reality.


Before we can alter the culture, we must first understand it. Culture is defined as the characteristics of the members of a civilization. Ultimately, culture defines the quality of life for a group of people.

Culture doesn't appear suddenly, it evolves over time as people grow and learn. The older the heritage, the more ingrained the culture is in its members.

There are essentially three parts to any culture: Customs, Religion and Society. Each influences the others.


Webster defines custom as a "long-established practice considered as unwritten law." Custom dictates the expected manner of conduct for the culture. It prescribes the etiquette to be observed in dress, speech, courtesy and politics (gamesmanship). Several companies, most notably IBM, have long understood the power of customs. These norms are established to project a particular image the company wishes to convey.


Religion is the philosophy of life and the basis for our values. It influences our judgment in terms of what is ethical and what is not. Although uniform morality sounds attractive to executives, it can be quite dangerous if unethical practices are allowed to creep into the moral fiber of the company.


Society defines our interpersonal relationships. This includes how we elect to govern and live our lives. Society defines the class structure in an organization, from Chairman of the Board to the hourly worker. It defines government, laws and institutions which must be observed by its members. More often than not, the society is "dictated" by management as opposed to "democratically" selected by the workers.


Obviously, it is people, first and foremost, that influence any culture. In terms of corporate culture, the only external factor influencing the enterprise is the "resident culture," which is the culture at any particular geographical location. The resident culture refers to the local customs, religion and society observed in our personal lives, outside of the workplace. The resident culture and corporate culture may differ considerably in some areas but are normally compatible.

Anthropologists have long known the physical surroundings, such as geography and climate, greatly influence the resident culture. The resident culture, in turn, influences the corporate culture. The corporate culture, which affects the behavior of its members, will greatly influence the resident culture.


Within any culture there are those people exhibiting special characteristics distinguishing them from others within an embracing culture; this is what is called "sub-cultures." In a corporate culture, sub-cultures take the form of cliques, special interest groups, even whole departments within a company. This is acceptable as long as the sub-culture does not violate the norms of the parent culture. When the characteristics of the sub-culture differ significantly from the main culture, it becomes a culture in its own right. This situation can be counterproductive in a corporate culture, a company within a company. For example, we have seen several IT organizations who view themselves as independent of the companies they serve. They "march to their own drummer" doing what is best for the IT Department, not necessarily what is best for their company. Conversely, we have seen management regulate the IT department as a separate, independent group as opposed to a vital part of the business.


Changing the corporate culture involves influencing the three elements of the culture: Customs, Religion and Society. This is not a simple task. It must be remembered that culture is learned. As such, it can be taught and enforced. However, the greater the change, the longer it will take to implement. It should evolve naturally over time. A cultural revolution, such as the one experienced in communist China, is too disruptive for people to understand and accept. As a result, they will resist and rebel.

A smaller company can change its culture much more rapidly than a larger company, simply because of communication considerations. In addition, an organization in the private sector can change faster than one in the public sector (such as a government agency), only because a commercial company isn't encumbered with government regulations. This is an instance where a "dictatorship" works more effectively than a "democracy."

To change the corporate culture, one must begin by defining the current corporate and resident cultures, including the customs, religion and society observed. There are several indicators for measuring the pulse of the culture: Absenteeism, Tardiness, Turnover, Infractions of Rules, Employee Attitudes, Productivity, etc. All of these can be used to gauge how people behave within the corporate culture. To this end, we offer the "PRIDE" Survey on Corporate Culture to assist in this analysis.

This is followed by a set of requirements for the culture and a plan to implement them. In a corporate culture, a policy and procedures manual can usually stipulate the customs and society to be observed. Developing a corporate consciousness is far more difficult to implement and involves considerable training and demonstration. Great care must be taken to avoid the "do as I say, not as I do" situation.

It is one thing to enact legislation, quite another to enforce it. Without an effective means to monitor and control the culture, it is quite futile to establish any formal policies or guidelines.


Management is much more than just meeting deadlines. It is a people-oriented function. If we lived in a perfect world, there wouldn't be a need for managers. People would build things correctly the first time and on schedule, on costs. The fact of the matter is that we live in an imperfect world. People do make mistakes; people do have different perspectives, etc. Management is getting people to do what you want them to do, when you want them to do it. The corporate culture is a vital part of the art of management. Failure to recognize this has led to the demise of several managers. But for those managers who take it into consideration, the corporate culture can greatly influence the productivity of any organization.

Within the "PRIDE"-Enterprise Engineering Methodology (EEM), Corporate Culture is defined in Phase 3, Activity E, "Prepare Organization Analysis", see:

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is...
"All companies have a culture. In order for employees to function and succeed, it is essential they understand and believe in the culture."


We've just introduced a new free service for managers to perform a self-analysis of their style of management, including leadership and corporate culture. Check it out at:


Also be sure to check out our new "MBA Daily Productivity Analyzer" which is a free calculator to evaluate a person's personal productivity during the day. It is also available at our corporate web site.


The Association of Records Managers and Administrators (ARMA) will be holding their 2006 International Conference and Expo in San Antonio, Texas, at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center on October 22nd-25th. For information, contact ARMA's headquarters at 913/341-3808 or 800/422-2762 or visit their web page at

The International Institute of Business Analysis will be holding their World Congress for Business Analysts (in conjunction with ProjectWorld 2006) on November 6th-9th at the Caribe Royale Hotel in Orlando, FL. For information, call 212/661-3500 x 3702 or visit their web site at:

The Association of Management Consulting Firms will be holding their 60th Annual Meeting on December 6th-8th at the Harvard Club in New York City. For information, contact AMCF headquarters in New York at 212/551-7887 or visit their web page at:

If you have got an upcoming IRM related event you want mentioned, please e-mail the date, time and location of the event to


Folks, we've just released a new book on management entitled, "The Bryce is Right! Empowering Managers in today's Corporate Culture." This is a frank and candid description of the state of the art in management and includes essays on the problems in management today, along with some pragmatic advice on how to deal with them. Basically, this is a condensed course in management. As such, it is suited for managers, either those aspiring to become a manager or for those who need a refresher course. It will also be of interest to young people entering the work force, and is excellent for college curriculums.

Charles Cole of Lyndhurst, OH, said it is a "Very interesting book. Good work! It reminds me of some of the early works I read by W. Edwards Deming. Too bad the American corporate gurus of his day didn't pay him heed."

And Wolf Hager of Fort Myers, FL, says it is "A very impressive publication which requires careful reading and reminds me somewhat of Peter Drucker."

The price is just $20 plus tax. For more information on our book or to order on-line, see:

We have also just produced a new one-day training program of the same name. For more information on both the eBook and course, please visit our web site at:

While there, look for our new MS PowerPoint presentation describing both the book and the training program.


I don't want to sound like an old grouch but I'm not too happy with the movies being churned out by Hollywood anymore. It used to be that movies were oriented to adults and every now and then they would produce something for the kids, either a Disney movie or some B-rated flick. But boy the times sure have changed. Now it seems the lion share of the movies are geared to the kids and every now and then something is produced for the adults. Maybe its because the kids spend the money while we're busy trying to make it.

I went to see three movies over the summer which I had hoped would be entertaining. They weren't. I don't want to mention the titles of the movies I saw, but their dialogs and plots were lame, the scripts horrible, and it seemed none of them could do anything without computer generated graphics anymore. I consider this sad as I used to love going to the movies. Even the trailers of upcoming flicks didn't look very promising. The only glimmer of hope is Clint Eastwood's upcoming "Flags of our Fathers" which might be the reprieve I've been waiting for. But it bothers me that only a couple of truly mature films are produced each year.

When I turned 50 I got an AARP card and discovered that I was now entitled to receive the senior citizen discount at the theaters (I guess I can finally get rid of my student ID). There's only one problem, there's not a lot out there that I really want to see.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.


I received an e-mail from a Hugh Connell in Montana who wrote me regarding last week's essay entitled, "Individualism vs. Teamwork."

Hugh writes:

"I found your essay last week very timely as my boss has been pushing teamwork a lot lately. Yea, we have the shirts and coffee mugs, but I still don't see any evidence of people cooperating on projects. Its still a dog-eat-dog world out there."

Thanks Hugh for your note,

You're right and this is the reason I wrote the essay. I am amazed how managers think that teamwork happens simply by holding some pep rallies and distributing some trinkets. I think it should be a requirement for corporate managers to go and visit a football team and watch how the coaches perform, particularly the more successful teams. I don't care if its at the high school, college, or pro level, its interesting to observe the interplay between the coaches and the players. It should be no different in the workplace.

Again, Thanks for your e-mail. Keep those cards and letters coming.

MBA is an international management consulting firm specializing in Information Resource Management. We offer training, consulting, and writing services in the areas of Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, Project Management, Methodologies and Repositories. For information, call us at 727/786-4567. For a complete listing of my essays, see the "PRIDE" Special Subject Bulletins section of our corporate web site.

Our corporate web page is at:

Management Visions is a presentation of M. Bryce & Associates, a division of M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. The program is produced on a weekly basis and updated on Sundays. It is available in versions for RealPlayer, Microsoft Media Player, and MP3 suitable for Podcasting. See our web site for details. You'll find our broadcast listed in several Podcast and Internet Search engines, as well as Apples' iTunes.

If you have any questions or would like to be placed on our e-mailing list to receive notification of future broadcasts, please e-mail it to

For a copy of past broadcasts, please contact me directly.

We accept MP3 files with your voice for possible inclusion in the broadcast.

There is no charge for adding a link to "Management Visions" on your web page, for details and HTML code, see the "Management Visions" web site.

Management Visions accepts advertising. For rates, please contact yours truly directly.

Copyright © 2006 by M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. All rights reserved. "PRIDE" is the registered trademark of M&JB Investment Company.

This is Tim Bryce reporting.

Since 1971: "Software for the finest computer - the Mind."



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home