Business Culture

Posted by Curtis Miller Curtis Miller

As I read my blog feeds, I will routinely save posts that I don't have time to read thoroughly, but would like to in the future. Then I come back later (sometimes much later) and read them.

I just came across an article by Dick Costolo titled simply Company Culture. He briefly examines why establishing a strong culture is important to a company. He states that without a strong culture you might get some of the following:

  • Bureaucracy. Without an implicit understanding of how things work around here, everything has to be explicitly articulated, documented, and instructed.
  • Office politics. Companies with a very clear vibe or feel to them find that politics don't encroach on the landscape as quickly as companies without a distinct culture. Probably because people start sniping or backbiting when uncertainty and policy are the order of the day.

He also talks about companies having a fake culture where leadership is trying to force a sense of spirit and excitement into the environment and everybody can sense that it's forced.

When it is just one or two people defining the culture for a very small team, things may be manageable. When you have possibly hundreds of leaders in the company espousing their take on the culture it is a lot less manageable. This is where politics and bureaucracy rear their ugly heads.

What about the situation where the company actually does have a strong culture, but the culture is not changing fast enough (or at all) and therefore, cannot retain top talent? A culture that may ultimately be self-destructive? For example, I believe that Google may be experience this as they struggle with becoming a large corporation. I have read many articles claiming that entrepreneurial types are departing Google because of cultural differences. Is this just the restless nature of the entrepreneur or an indication of a weakening culture?

Personally, I try to avoid bureaucracy. As Grace Hopper said it's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission. I recently learned this the hard way and I won't make that mistake again anytime soon. As far as politics goes, I generally give it the finger and refuse to play. This can be hard sometimes when you feel your job may hinge on your ability to politically maneuver within the organization. I still think it is better to speak your mind, do what you feel is right, and not back down without a good reason.

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