Corporate cultures: How not to alienate people & how to unlock the revolutionary zeal

Food for thought – these 11 days away from work has given me the time to stop and think about what it is that has got me unmotivated & disillusioned about the company and what would be a constructive approach to resolving the issues that I face.

Trolling the web, I came across two interesting blogs by “The Strategist” – Thomas A Stewart on BNET.  In a series of blogs focusing on the Corporate culture – he focuses on how not to alienate people & in the other on how to unlock the revolutionary zeal in a company.

Below I have quoted the most interesting parts of the first blog for me:;drawer-container


“Here’s a real life example of dunderheaded revolutionary rhetoric. I’m paraphrasing an actual change proposal that I saw in a previous life, one that called for radical reorganization, a huge (more than 30%) cost reduction, and politically sensitive rearrangement of lines and boxes. (It’s been edited to protect the guilty.) Making the case to leadership, the change team said revolution was justified

because of lack of consolidated strategy and priorities; inadequate capabilities compared to competitors; inefficient spending; internal best practices not shared; long tenure and high cost for most staff, who do not add value commensurate with their costs.

You think I’m strategically sloppy, incapable, inefficient, complacent, and overpaid–and you want me to participate in the change effort, give you my best ideas, and sign up for the revolution? I think I’d better get ready to sign up for unemployment instead.

By contrast, here’s the prologue to another document, different case, but calling for roughly the same scale and kind of change:

The drastic cost reduction target opens up a window of opportunity: To design a wholly new, more effective and efficient operating model. Reducing expenditures only by reducing volume of activities would kill the organization. Instead, we can aggregate inefficient activities and create focus. Once the results are clear, we can rescale.

Now, some of this may be Newspeak: Those windows of opportunity will surely be used for defenestration. But, hey, designing a wholly new operating model, creating focus, and planning how to rebuild–I could pitch in for that.” Unquote.

Simple really – its not the idea that you present to the company but how you present it. To ensure buy-in and ultimately succesful implementation of the revolution, the idea needs to presented in a way that makes it palatable to the one’s who will ultimately do the work. A successful sell to those inside the company will generate enthusiasm and motivation, ensuring that the team is pulling together towards the desirable destination or outcome.

The second blog concentrates on how to ensure the buy in:;drawer-container


“Don’t change the unchangeable. Cultures exist because they work. They may have dysfunctional elements-most do-but a culture survives because it does the group more good than harm. (For example, if people are unfairly punished when things go wrong, avoiding accountability is a constructive, self-preservative adaptation.) Consequently, you can’t change a culture without changing the circumstances that make it persist-e.g., without changing the work.

Change behaviors, not values. If “culture is how we do things around here,” difference (and similarity) between capabilities and culture is this: Capabilities are the things we do well; culture is all the things we do, including those we do badly. So the way to start changing culture is to start with things you do well, change a few other key things for the better, and expand that beachhead. If you tell someone his values are screwed up, he’ll tell you to screw yourself. Instead, insist on a few behaviors-greeting customers when they come onto the floor, making eye contact, saying thank you. Minds will follow.

Find your rebels and make their cause yours.” Unquote.

Ensuring that the buy-in remains a continuous process, one needs to celebrate the behaviors that support the ultimate goal. Unfortunately, celebrate the wrong behaviors or people and all you are creating is a culture where the celebration becomes a mockery. Don’t celebrate at all and people won’t see the recognition of their effort. It’s a fine and tricky line to walk and one that ultimately determines who stays and who leaves in frustration from the company.

Most people who are capable of change will jump ship, they are the one’s who are not afraid to adapt to the new corporate culture in their new company. As they go, they take their competence, knowledge and the last impression of the current company with them. An impression which will go a long way in determining how they will deal with their ex-company in the future. When this churn rate becomes higher than expected or desirable, the company will ultimately find themselves stuck with the people who do not believe that they will find a similar or better position out there in the industry, whether it’s a question of competency, the malleability of their skill set or the courage to make the change is another matter all together. What does that leave the company with? the dregs, the bottom few and the new bloods who are just happy to have a job at all.

A company’s success ultimately depends on its ability to attract and retain the best talents – and that is when the people make the choice to stay with the company even when they have the opportunity to a better position, pay etc. in another. Failure to recognise this simple fact or pull towards the desirable goal of retaining the best due to inconsistent practices between the top management, human resources & the line managers who manage these talents – is corporate failure.

Posted on February 17, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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