One Culture Or Many?

Is it possible for an organisation to have only one culture?

In a multidivisional organisation, it can be assumed that the different divisions will have somewhat different cultures. It's also the case that, even within the same division, the likelihood is that there will be subcultures (manufacturing vs. sales). And in the network organisation, different entities that do the same thing may well work (successfully) very differently. An international dimension only complicates things further. Where the businesses are very different there may well be a case to take a portfolio approach.

The assumption that different business entities - regardless of location, history, clock speed, product and/or customer base - should behave/operate in the same way is undesirable and unworkable. That does not mean that a degree of "oneness" cannot be achieved.

A common, compelling purpose, shared values, an overall push for diversity, inclusion, being customer-driven, a mutual philosophy around collaboration, the discipline that goes into talent acquisition, support for the local community, the need for candour, pooled best-practice and leaders who care can all build "sameness" while still recognising the value of "difference".

Conversely, attempts to enforce one approach with regards to, for example, compensation and/or talent management can create a degree of coercive tension that is less than helpful.

"Tight - loose" is a useful metaphor.

Create tomorrow's culture, today

Tomorrow will be different. We know we have to organise and approach delivering value for the customer differently but we can't simply throw all the cards up in the air and start again. How do we move forward if we can't change everything at once?

The answer? The "innovation garage" - a carefully chosen part of the business is parked separately to the rest of the organisation. The goal? With tomorrow's customer in mind, explore and experiment with:

  1. What it means to be customer-driven.
  2. Tomorrow's organisation design.
  3. Future technology.
  4. The most effective way to work.

In other words, create tomorrow's culture, today.

Attempts to build "one culture" may be a forlorn hope but it's important to identify and understand the different cultures involved.

Key question(s): Do you have one culture or many and, if the latter, how do you manage that difference?

Insights from "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis" Orxestra Inc., © 2021.


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