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Letters to a Young Manager

High Expectations; High Compassion, #75
LTYM > Leadership and Values

Dear Sophie,
Your question about corporate culture is a good one: can culture help reach your mission goals, or can it get in the way. I think the answer is yes and yes.

A decade ago, "corporate culture" was the rage of management books. Types and sub-types of culture were identified and coveted. My favorite title of the era was "Fad Surfing in the Board Room," and my favorite line was from Tom Peters, who said that you could tell the culture of company by spending ten minutes walking around the halls.

Since culture is rooted in what is valued, it is very durable and hard to change. While the tone of culture is set by the senior management team, it may take a generation of hiring and retiring to change a culture. There are the exceptions, like Jack Welch, but even GE took a decade or more to change.

At Save the Children, we have a variety of cultures. In the IS department, we have a "high expectations; high compassion" culture. I think people on our team would agree that we are very demanding, but we are very flexible when it comes to individual needs.

So what are the lessons learned? First, walk the talk. The values you demonstrate day-to-day will say more than the values you talk about. Second, hire to the culture you want to create. Third, measure what you want to get. And finally,recognize it when you get it.



High expectations; high compassion

Discussion Questions:

1) How would you describe the culture of your company or group?
2) What do people value the most about your organization?
3) What success stories have your heard about changing a company's culture and values?

For Further Reading:

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