Inside Business: Culture? It's time to define your terms
Sunday 06 December 1998
Part of the problem is that culture comes in all sorts of guises. At Hewlett-Packard or Andersen Consulting there are clear identities. But at many other organisations it is not nearly so obvious what they stand for and how they go about their business.
Another difficulty is that there has been a shift in what we mean when we talk about culture. In the past it tended to mean little more than "the way we do things around here". Increasingly, though, it has become more complex than that, with various "implicit" values kicking in.
As a result, managers who are completely comfortable about grappling with the harder issues can shy away from dealing with it, even if they suspect that the notion of culture might contain a magic ingredient that can help them achieve those other targets.
It is this reluctance to get involved that Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones hope to counter with The Character of a Corporation (HarperCollins, pounds 19.99). They demonstrate just how important they think the issue is by sub-titling their book How Your Company's Culture Can Make or Break Your Business, and then set about trying to make the subject accessible.
At the heart of this drive for accessibility is an analytical methodology that divides corporate cultures into four key types: fragmented, networked, mercenary and communal. The idea is not that any one of these is right, just that one might be more appropriate. It is, therefore, incumbent upon organisations to understand how they can shift from one to another. They also need to appreciate that most organisations are characterised by several characters at once, and it is, therefore, critical that everybody should understand where these different cultures are, and how they can clash.
The authors also introduce the notion a life cycle in a culture, generally starting with the communal, where a group is focused on performance and often ending in the fragmented, where employees do their own thing.
Finally, they remind the reader that any form of culture can be functional or dysfunctional - "all it takes to slip from the good to the bad is people demonstrating the behaviours of sociability or solidarity to their own benefit, not the organisation's".
Having pointed out that it is with good reason that managers have tended to regard culture as something fuzzy and amorphous, they then stress that diagnosing your culture is not always as easy as it looks.
Nor do they stop there: there is advice on avoiding a dysfunctional culture; on shifting from one to another; and tips on motivation and incentives.
As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”
- 1 Mother fed her daughter tapeworms to make her skinny for beauty pageant
- 2 Crystal Palace next manager latest: Palace consider Ally McCoist - EXCLUSIVE
- 3 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 4 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 5 Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'
'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
West poised to join forces with Assad in face of Islamic State
Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – as hunt begins for killer
ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
iJobs Money & Business
£50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer - CCNP, Hedge Fu...
£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-CCIE, Mul...
£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Infrastructure Engineer (...
£35000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, BGP, Mult...