Are you a Google culture with bean-bags, free food, table tennis etc. or are you a Financial Services style operation – formal, more austere, strict environment? The changes we have experienced in culture over the last 10 years have been immense – we have seen an insular domestic culture move to a global, diverse business culture, with the benefits and pitfalls that they bring.
Maslow’s theory of needs was one of the original drivers of business culture, with the basic needs satisfied, we then worked up to the more intangible needs. Trompenaas and Hampden-Turner have developed a definition of culture – ‘the pattern by which a group habitually mediates between value differences, such as rules and exceptions, technology and people, conflict and consensus, etc. Cultures can learn to reconcile such values at ever-higher levels of attainment, so that better rules are created from the study of numerous execptions. From such reconciliation come health, wealth, and wisdom. But cultures in which one value polarity dominates and militates against another will be stressful and stagnant.
Moving on from this, we can then look at the 4 Corporate cultures:
- Incubator culture – typical of Silicon Valley, both person-oriented and egalitarian. Highly creative, incubating new ideas. My query is – can we maintain an incubator culture as the workforce matures – or do we need to ensure rapid and sustained turnover to maintain the ‘hatching of ideas’ ability?
- The Guided Missile – egalitarian, task-oriented culture in which project groups steer towards the accomplishment of team tasks. NASA is the most closely linked culture of this kind, with expertise being key with over one hundred disciplines in science and technology ensuring a landing on the moon, with the only boss being the mission itself. Do we see many guided missile cultures – Im not so sure.
- The Eiffel Tower – highly structured such as we see in a structured factory environment or large bureaucracy, with precise, detailed, and routine tasks without error. Very stable, predictable, safe, routine. We can certainly see this in manufacturing and state organisations, however the safety that was once the key element of Eiffel Tower cultures has dissipated and is not as true.
- The Family culture- perhaps the oldest, since a large number of companies originate from family enterprises even if they eventually go public. We should note that there are more family-owned companies globally than any other kind, however some companies exhibit a family culture without a family ownership.
This family culture mirrors a family environment, with a patriarchal type head, and filial bonding, revering their leader. This culture is personal rather than task-oriented, because who you are is more important than what you do. Creative genius rarely passes down a dynasty, so that the vision of the founder may not be progressed as well in future generations.
Where does Ireland typically sit in these models? With a significant number of SMEs, we must assume that we still have a signficant predominance of Family and Eiffel Tower cultures, with the U.S. multinationals striving to provide incubator/guided missile cultures. However, with creative individuals being a small part of our overall working population, there are usually very few true incubator cultures around, and paying for performance fails miserably in an incubator culture. Ireland generally falls into the Guided Missile predominant culture, with a focus on tasks. With our young, well-educated population, this certainly reflects the needs of our employees, however with the current economic situation, we cannot satisfy the strong pay for performance requirement that a Guided Missile culture demands. Money is a symbol of team success and the achievement of its members in the Guided missile culture – so do we retain this culture, or try to shift the meridian to a less money focussed style?
Where does your organisation fit and do you see your culture changing as the organisation matures? What should we suggest to the entrepreneurs – do they all try to attain an incubator style, or jump straight to the guided missile?
Managing People across Cultures – Fons Trompenaas and Charles Hampden-Turner