Corporate Culture: The Ultimate Strategic Asset

By Eric G. Flamholtz; Yvonne Randle | Go to book overview

7
Managing the
Innovation and Change
Dimension of Culture

The notion that companies can somehow be “built to last” is a pleasant fiction.1 Nothing lasts forever, not redwood trees, not empires, and certainly not companies. At times there are periods of stability for companies and nations that give the illusion of permanence; but it is a mirage.

This has been shown with powerful force by the “Great Recession” of 2008–09. The financial tsunami crushed many companies that had distinguished histories and long periods of survival. Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, and Countrywide Financial disappeared as independent entities. AIG, Citigroup, and General Motors (once the mightiest of them all) were humbled and brought close to bankruptcy—saved only by massive federal government bailouts. All were once undisputed leaders and best-in-class companies. Today, they are object lessons in management failure.

Could effective management of their corporate culture have made a difference in their fall from grace? We believe that the answer is clearly yes.2 Specifically, all of these companies failed, to some extent, to effectively manage change and innovation.

This chapter deals with how companies can and should manage the innovation and change dimension of culture to help ensure that they remain healthy, both financially and in terms of organizational effectiveness.3 As we explain in the first sections, change and innovation are not synonyms and should be treated as two separate but related dimensions of culture that need to be managed. We address managing change as a separate aspect of

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