It is increasingly recognized by researchers, practitioners, and managers alike that corporate culture is of critical importance to organizational success.1 Even though this is the case, there are many organizations where the corporate culture is not managed, and in some cases the concept is not even understood.
For some companies—such as Google, Southwest Airlines, Johnson & Johnson, and many others described in this book—a strong positive culture is a true asset, if not in the strict accounting sense then in the real economic sense. Flamholtz (one of the authors of this book) has suggested that culture actually is an asset or form of organizational human capital in the accounting sense as well.2 At the other extreme, are companies—such as GM, Reuters, AIG, and others to be described throughout this book— where corporate culture is a true economic liability, not in the technical accounting sense but in the colloquial sense of this term.
This dichotomy (asset or liability) and the critical importance of corporate culture is shown clearly in the case of two companies: Starbucks Coffee Company and General Motors. The former is a classic entrepreneurial success story with a strong positive culture that is an economic asset; the latter is a classic case of corporate decline attributable at least in part to a dysfunctional culture, lacking in entrepreneurship behavior for decades, even as its decline persisted.