Thursday, April 14, 2011

Who is Responsible for Culture

In this article: Corporate Culture: Whose Job Is It? the author stated "Managers focus on timelines, budgets, organizational structures, metrics, controls, and numbers. Leaders focus on vision, buy-in, motivation, culture, and people." It never occurred to me that the Chief Staff Officer (whatever his or her title) would not feel responsible for the corporate culture.

While efforts have been made to teach culture (Disney is a perfect example of that process), taught cultures only work if they also are lived and breathed -- by everyone. A CSO who is willing to delegate culture accountability had better hope that his (or her subordinates) don't see that act as being in conflict with said culture. Put another way, the way my boss acts, day-in and day-out, speaks volumes more to me about what is important than a class I attend infrequently or a sign on the wall.

Isn't this obvious? As a VP-level manager, I have tried to establish a culture within my department that conflicts with the unstated (but very real) overall corporate culture. It is possible to build little pods of excellence but it comes at a cost. Every time individuals in my department are forced to work under the general culture I have to remind them... We are different. Better. Don't let it get to you. Do your best. You know our goals so keep striving for them.

It is awkward, to say the least, to try to sustain a separate culture within one department, but better than succumbing to the malaise that has infected the rest of the organization.