Diagnosis: Learning to Read Cultures
A culture is its heroes, values, networks. It is all these things, but something else besides. Culture is a money-in-the-pocket investment-for CEOs, financial analysts, even job seekers. Experience tells you only so much about a company; its culture tells more. One can, in fact, predict a company's performance by diagnosing the character of its heroes, values, and so on.
Culture, even roughly defined, has a very strong influence on a company's behavior over time. And that influence is predictable. CEOs and senior managers can read a culture for early warning signals of people out of synch with the aims of their business. Investment analysts can turn to culture for greater accuracy in forecasting. Even executives in search of new opportunities would do well to match-make their personality to that of a company. Yet where should the neophyte cultural observer begin?
Although any superficial analysis runs the risk of being incomplete or even wrong, surprisingly much can be learned in a limited amount of time about a company's culture. How? By using the techniques consultants rely on. The process begins at the surface and proceeds inward, toward the company's unconscious. Almost like a psychoanalyst, the culture analyst places a company on the couch. Here are the most basic routes we follow:
Study the physical setting. However irrelevant to the conduct of business, a company's investment in bricks and mortarits building--inevitably says something about its culture. After all, building investments are made or at least overseen by senior management. As much as they'd like to avoid the thought, most senior managers recognize that the buildings will likely outlive them;