Know Your 4 Company Cultures

Earlier this month SmartBrief on Leadership Editor James DaSilva wrote a brilliant post titled “Here’s Why You Can’t Fix Your Culture Problems”.

In the article, DaSilva mentioned how companies, especially large companies, have many cultures within them. It described how these other cultures may work against the core company culture and cause challenges that work against the culture you are attempting to establish.

Elaborating a little further on this premise, I believe every company has 4 cultures within it, no matter how large or small they are. These cultures exist with or without steps to mitigate or leverage their impact on the organization.

  • Core Culture
  • Local Culture
  • Sub-culture
  • Counter-culture

Core Culture is the overall values of the organization. It’s the culmination of the mission and vision and the embodiment of the behaviors that drive towards that mission. Every company has a core culture, and every company should have it written and defined to govern the vision and behaviors of the individuals and collective teams within it. On paper, core culture should be the strongest guiding force of your organization.

Local Culture are those cultures that are organic due to geographic differences, such as diverse teams and remote workforces. Those “local cultures” that DaSilva points out need to be acknowledged and folded into the larger core culture picture. These are variations due to the chemistry, diversity and skills of the people in those local teams. They bring a unique flavor and perspective that rounds out our core culture and brings it to life.

Sub Culture are those cultures that become a behavioral derivative of the core culture. Sub cultures take root different reasons and manifest in differing forms. They drift from the core for rationales such as but not limited to misinterpreting the core vision, adapting to market of procedural forces, expediency in efficiencies or profitability, or disguising an agenda to veer goals off course. Sub cultures are not necessarily bad, as some may actually enhance the core of the company, such as an innovative R&D department or a remote team that resolves to leverage the brand into a larger and more impactful reach. Each leader should know what sub-cultures exist within their organization, and ensure that they have the needed guardrails to stay on course but the sandbox flexibility to adapt to meet a need on the fly.

Counter Culture is the more threatening of the four cultures. Counter cultures are the deliberate attempt to undermine mission, sabotage agendas, and take the organization in a markedly drastic direction. Counter cultures are not readily overt; many times they exist layers down and lock in over years of erosion through policies, practices, and/or personnel that reveal their motives at a strategic moment. This happens quite often through takeover bids,  coups, and adoption of policies or campaigns that create the tectonic shift away from core culture.

As DaSilva pointed out, the incremental nature of bad behavior, or non-core cultural behavior, is poor rationalization. Having a strong culture means having a commonly connected vision that is communicated continually. Having a great culture is being able to discern what balance of cultures exist in your organization, addressing their needs, and leading them to a positive impact through the lens of your established mission.

(image: pixaby)


About Paul LaRue

My goal - To encourage you to lead & influence others with positive impact.

Posted on August.28.2017, in Leadership. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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