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The Differing Corporate Cultures in the Business World

Jan 19, 2008
There have been dozens of references about unique corporate cultures and why some of them work better in certain situations. There are names being tossed around, some of them seem to be made up on the fly. For instance there is the Work Hard/Play Hard culture or the Live and Let Live Culture. For every pundit there is a new buzz name for a social observance in business, and for every pundit they offer their own form of executive leadership training. Most of these philosophies, however, can be boiled down to specific components: trust, communication and inspiration.

History of Recognizing Corporate Culture

A closer look on how the corporation affects the individual was possibly first introduced by the author William H. Whyte's book The Organizational Man. This work broke some ground in social analysis in corporations. He warned against the corporation turning into a bureaucratic stagnancy that stifled spontaneity. Corporations took away some main points from the body of work he produced and came up with agreements that:

- Employees are motivated or disillusioned in the workplace by prevailing corporate culture
- Corporate culture gauges the businesses' effectiveness
- Corporate culture inevitably changes
- Power structure, interpersonal relations and human interchanges can be seen as unique to different types of corporate cultures

With that being established, other social leaders and scientists have made observances that are noteworthy. Geert Hofstede, a Dutch organizational studies professor, published, with his colleagues, six "dimensions" that distinguish separate characteristics in corporate culture.

1. Process oriented verses results oriented -- A process culture will rely on keeping the risk low and using tried and true approaches, while results oriented are always in search of new methods and taking risks.

2. Employee oriented versus job oriented -- Its simply distinguishing a work place that is placing more value on the comforts of the individual as apposed to making sure the work position is filled and is being productive in that position.

3. Parochial versus professional -- Parochial cultures identify themselves with the business they work for while professional cultures identify themselves mostly on the individual's work credentials.

4. Open system versus closed system -- For open systems, the company is more transparent in communication. Management/executive levels talk to all levels of the company's employees. Closed systems do just the opposite and are more open to seasoned high ranking employees.

5. Loose versus tight control -- This is simply distinguishing corporate settings where the employer is either micromanaging the employee or not, it's a degree of constraint from the top down.

6. Normative versus pragmatic -- Similar to the process/results tag, it explains more about how the culture relates to the market or customer. For instance, a pragmatic approach in sales would be to make the sale if it includes bending the rules a bit. While the normative culture would adhere strictly to rules because of their ethic and moral implications as seen from the customer's perspective.

And of course, there are varying degrees of each in most business models.

Companies Seeking Cultural Change

Culture in a company is important to maintain for proper business functions. Business and corporate leaders and CEOs alike often seek out guidance to change or bolster their corporate culture. The popular buzzword "coaching" has been tossed around in the corporate world, and many leaders seek executive leadership coaching.

Since many corporations have the time or money to train their employees, or more importantly, train their executives in coaching, they will seek out groups who specialize in executive leadership training.
About the Author
Art Gib writes for Partners in Leadership (http://www.partnersinleadership.com) who specialize in corporate counseling and executive leadership coaching. They've assisted major corporations such as McDonald's, Northwest Airlines and Best Buy.
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