Keys to Corporate Culture: Vision, Flexibility, Consistency

By Bird, Anat | American Banker, July 10, 1996 | Go to article overview

Keys to Corporate Culture: Vision, Flexibility, Consistency


Bird, Anat, American Banker


A strong corporate culture mobilizes all resources in one direction. This is of critical importance to decentralized organizations in general and to super community banks in particular.

The banking business is ever-changing. The pace, rate, and speed of change are exhilarating. Therefore, the ability to manage change is a critical success factor. Building corporate culture is an excellent tool in managing and incorporating change. It requires the following ingredients:

Direction from the top. Vision is the chief executive's main job. Senior management must create a clear and cohesive vision that can unify the company.

Be single-minded about cultural change; forget the scars, just keep going.

Common, unifying culture enhances organizational stability and the ability to deal with change, hence its critical importance.

The bottom line is that unified culture enhances profitability, because it gets the most out of people and assures that everyone is moving in the same direction and not at cross-purposes.

Emphasis on incremental change. We do not to leap a tall building in a single bound. Corporate culture is a series of incremental changes to people's behavior that ultimately achieves critical mass. We must be patient yet tenacious.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Even though it seems to you, the chief executive, that communication has been clear and complete, the troops are thirsty for more. You cannot over-communicate.

The chief executive's commitment must be clear. Without senior management's unwavering support to the corporate culture and without them walking the talk, corporate culture will not run.

Implementing cultural change smoothly. Cultural change is easier when your back is against the wall. People are much more receptive to drastic changes and learning new things when they feel they have no choice. Utilize change points and trigger opportunities to bring about cultural change in a smoother fashion.

Leading by example. To make corporate culture work, behavior and message must be consistent. Don't talk about flattening the organization when you make all the decisions. Don't talk about entrepreneurial spirit when people are penalized for any risk, even those taken within corporate guidelines. …

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