Guest Contribution by Dr. Horst Walther, president
SiG Software Integration GmbH
Web site: www.si-g.com
Horst Walther has been a member of the team of consultants of PROJECT CONSULT from 1998 to 2001.
Isn’t it rather academic to delve into the depths of corporate culture and its root causes? In times of crisis - don’t we have some more urgent questions to answer? Isn’t there some real work to be done?
Maybe - maybe not. Perhaps indications advance more indirectly and from a different corner.
McKinsey - like them or not - delivered some valuable insight. They conducted a survey of executives on leadership and innovation in September 2007, receiving responses from 722 executives at the senior vice president level and above and from 736 lower-level executives around the world.
And here’s the outcome:
More than 70 % of the senior executives in a survey say that innovation will be at least one of the top three drivers of growth for their companies in the next three to five years. Well, they got it, that’s fine - and it is still true as a crisis cannot be survived just by cost cutting.
But most executives are generally disappointed in their ability to stimulate innovation: some 65 % of the senior executives McKinsey surveyed were less confident about the decisions they make in this area.
They go on claiming that there are no best-practice solutions to seed and cultivate innovation. And that the structures and processes that they reflexively use to encourage it are not sufficient. Nevertheless most of them (94 %) knew, that “people and corporate culture are the most important drivers of innovation”.
Isn’t that interesting? Our top economic decision makers feel that they have to compete through innovations. They recognise that culture is the major driving force for success. But they are not very confident, that they have the right tools at hand to direct this force to their corporations benefit.
There clearly is a reason to the opinion, that corporate culture is one of the major forces that make the difference between success and failure.
Geert Hofstede, the grand old man of cross cultural research warns us: “Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster.”
Geerts statement marks the downside and hints at the possible pitfalls. But where there is a shadow, there must be light. If others suffer from it, why can’t we build a culture which we can thrive on? There are some encouraging sign on the wall. If your were lucky to read Werner Simons book on the “hidden champions”, or even go back as far as to “In search of excellence” by Peters and Waterman you may conclude, that corporate culture may be the distinguishing factor for the very successful corporations worldwide.
Recent and not so recent research on the advantage of collectively organised species over those facing their challenges as a sole individual shows that the roots of a “successful” corporate culture are laid out by our heir from evolution - the behaviour of a successful group, like a horde of Stone Age. Modern globally acting high tech companies draw from the same sources as the wolf pack?
Yes, I think it is true: The driving forces within any collective are still the same as we inherited from our ancestors at the dawn of mankind. But in modern organisations it’s the culture which directs the people to do things not the orders from the top – based on these archaic forces.
Hmmm, what is a modern organisation? And does cc affect some corporations more than others? Is the influence of cc depending on how you view a corporation - as a predefined machine or as an evolving community? Well it’s evident, we have to drill a bit deeper. But I think it will be worth it. (HW)