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Keeping Corporate Culture Vibrant

Blog: Jim Sinur

 These days corporate cultures seem to be left to fend for themselves. This is building a dangerous wave of uncaring organizations that are forgetting their investment in employees and partners. This, in turn, negatively affects customers and eventually societies. In our blind pursuit of numbers and profitable outcomes, and hyper-automation, cultures are losing out. This loss appears to have a cascading effect on people in many of their roles. Let’s look at the five most common types of cultures and the dangerous balance point as we automate to get optimal business outcomes. See figure 1 for the five cultures. 

                                            Figure 1 The Five Types of Cultures 

While there seems to be a correlation between the size of an organization and the tendency to see culture receive less attention and descend down the slippery slope of negative culture. Really savvy organizations pay close attention to culture as they progress and keep their eye on the ball on behalf of culture. Some small organizations never get to success or a descent culture as well. Taking the temperature of culture is essential and ongoing. The categories definitions below are color codded from cooler colors to hot and dangerous colors. The more automation we take on should consider the impact on culture; not just the savings and profitability. 

The Family Culture:

This culture is packed with caring about all the people in and around the organization. Things are loose and employees tend to wear many hats. The processes are ill-defined, but things get done despite the lack of documentation and repetitive success. The obvious improvement here to make sure people know who does what and how to stay compliant and successful in terms of numbers. People are generally happy, but they get confused and goals are not shared and communicated at a granular enough level.

The Team Culture:

This level of culture has a much better definition of what is expected of everybody and how to attain success for the organization and all its constituents. Processes are documented and distributed, but people still cover for each other when the process is still growing. KPIs become more visible and granular. Often there are loads of automation opportunities that are begging for help. Organizations tend to be gathering lists of automation opportunities. 

The Machine Culture:

This level of culture is the most important one to pay attention to because it can become a tipping point to take a culture overboard and down a slippery slope. Here automation is very important and organizations are exercising their automation muscles. People are watching results intensely and will be making constant improvements. The danger here is to forget about the people and the ethical aspects of automation. Keeping the delicate balance between people and results is very challenging at this stage. Things and people are measured with great intensity. Keeping measurements fair to people as well as fair to better outcomes is the challenge.  

The Jungle Culture

This culture is filled with playing favorites because the measurements and goals are impossible to attain. Now politics dominate and the measurements are used against people who are not in the favored status. This is where the “suck-ups” tend to get rewarded over those who are also missing the mark but won’t or don’t know how to “play the game”  If gone unchecked, the speed towards culture demise increases very fast. 

The Advanced Jungle Culture:

This culture is so political, people are really afraid of losing out to the up-and-comers. Mentors will literally try to “eat their young” when push comes to shove. Nobody makes their goals and everybody is a threat to be a “new favorite of the month”. The end is in sight as goals even lose out in these environments. It is all about killing innovation, the competitors for internal advancement, and to hell with everyone else including customers. Stockholders tend to dominate this culture. 

Net; Net: 

Caring about your culture is so important. If leaders suspect a slide they need to apply the brakes before it is too late. Infusing the important aspects of each positive culture is essential. If you can maintain a family in a large organization, you are going to win long term, If you incent team behaviors equally with results and measurements, you are winning the battle. Please measure your culture often to avoid long term demise. 

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