The Challenge of Changing and Developing Corporate Culture

The classic summary of ‘the way we do things around here’ is not always enough for us to challenge and change corporate culture.

Clients regularly talk about ‘…changing culture in the organisation’ as one of the key outcomes of a project. 

Behind this deceptively simple statement is a myriad of guides, surveys, benchmarks, information, books, and advice on the topic. Try an internet search and it’s likely that there will be some 50 million hits.  In particular, informed and experienced researchers, authors and writers such as Ed Schein, Gert Hofstede, Peter Woolliams and Fons Trompenaars offer various views on changing culture. So against this background there is little doubt that this is a significant topic. And therein lies the challenge…just where do we start?

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Strategy and structure: squaring a necessary circle

Is setting strategy still necessary; is a prescribed structure still needed; what constitutes an effective role profile?

Strategic decision making – is it history?

In 1977, the historian Alfred Chandler of Harvard Business School published a seminal book on the history of strategic decision making at the highest levels of American firms, including General Motors, DuPont, Standard Oil and Sears Roebuck.  Of these, GM and DuPont remain strong businesses.  Standard was broken up as in illegal monopoly in early 20th century although its progeny,  Exxon-Mobil and Chevron, continue to thrive.   Sears struggles as do so many retailers in the face of the storm called Amazon.  The book is called “The Visible Hand:  The Managerial Revolution in American Business”.  From the book comes a maxim that I believe still rings true.  It is attributed to Alfred Sloane, one of GM’s founders.  The maxim is, “Structure follows strategy”.

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