Corporate Cultures: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life

By Terrence E. Deal; Allan A. Kennedy | Go to book overview
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Values: The Core of the Culture

Values are the bedrock of any corporate culture.* As the essence of a company's philosophy for achieving success, values provide a sense of common direction for all employees and guidelines for their day-to-day behavior. These formulas for success determine (and occasionally arise from) the types of corporate heroes, and the myths, rituals, and ceremonies of the culture. In fact, we think that often companies succeed because their employees can identify, embrace, and act on the values of the organization.

These values may be grand in scope ("Progress is our most important product"), or narrowly focused ("Underwriting excellence"). They can capture the imagination ("The first Irish multinational"). They can tell people how to work together ("It takes two to Tandem"). Or they can simply drive ("15 percent period-to-period sales and earnings growth"). If they are strong, they command everyone's attention: "What people really care about around here is quality." If they are weak, they may often be ignored: "It's not the same company since the old man stepped down. Nowadays everyone around here is just more or less doing his own thing."

"Rational" managers rarely pay much attention to the value system of an organization. Values are not "hard," like organizational structures, policies and procedures, strategies, or budgets. Often they are not even written down. And when someone does try to set them down in a formal statement of corporate philosophy, the product often bears an uncomfortable resemblance to the Biblical beatitudes--good and true and broadly constructive, but not all that relevant to Monday morning.

Much of the original work on the ideas expressed in this chapter was done by McKinsey consultant Julien Phillips.


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Corporate Cultures: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life


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