Read time: 4 minutes
In this edition
This week’s newsletter concludes our discussion on cultivating a corporate culture that is characterized by positive mimesis. If you’ve missed the previous editions, you can read them below.
- Part 1: Introduction: Culture & Mimesis
- Part 2: Structure
- Part 3: People
- Part 4: Organizational resilience & evolution
Let me know what you think, and thanks for reading.
Architecting a Positive Culture (Part 5): Challenges, Solutions, Conclusion
This week we conclude our discussion of how to create a corporate culture that is conducive to positive mimesis. Last week we spoke about how to ensure the organization evolves in ways that are conducive to the preservation and enhancement of the culture. Below are some final thoughts on challenges, solutions, and advice to leaders.
The Big Challenges
There is a temptation to view the above as idealistic and, by that fact, impractical and thus not worth the time. Let’s first identify the challenges, then talk about how to address them.
We can't start from scratch
One need not be a committed cynic to observe that, in the vast majority of cases, starting from scratch is not an option. We cannot simply wipe the slate clean. Our businesses operate within a framework of entrenched practices, policies, and power dynamics. It is difficult to overstate the difficulty of changing a company’s culture given that these elements, often deeply rooted in the company’s history, can resist transformation. The pressures of market demands, investor expectations, and competition further complicate the scenario.
Not every individual will be aligned with the culture
Another significant challenge is the potential misalignment between individual aspirations and organizational objectives. Not every employee’s “thick desires”—those profound, meaningful aspirations—will naturally align with the company’s vision or the nature of their work. Moreover, some employees may continue to chase “thin desires”, influenced by mimetic behaviors that don’t necessarily contribute to the company’s overall health. The diversity of personal goals and motivations can create a complex tapestry that is difficult to weave into a coherent and unified corporate culture.
This is a really big initiative
Finally, the magnitude of this change is a daunting indeed, particularly in larger organizations. What works in a small team or a startup environment might not translate effectively in a multinational corporation. The sheer size and diversity of large organizations mean that changes take longer to implement and require more resources. Moreover, the risk of a diluted or inconsistent application of cultural strategies is higher in expansive, geographically dispersed companies.
Facing the Challenges
There are no magic wands we can wave to address the above challenges. As the saying goes, we can only put one foot in front of the other. What is important ultimately is getting started. To this end, I can offer three pieces of advice.
Embrace incremental change
In tackling structural and systemic challenges, you can build a roadmap, but stick to manageable objectives. Smaller changes will cumulatively and eventually lead to significant cultural shifts. This method allows for adjustments along the way and is more digestible than a complete overhaul. It also provides the opportunity to celebrate small victories, building momentum and buy-in from employees.
Start with open dialogue
To address the diversity of individual desires, establish open channels of communication where employees can express their aspirations and concerns. Create forums where these desires can be discussed in the context of the company’s goals. Flexibility is key; recognize that not all desires can or should be aligned with the company’s objectives. The aim is not to homogenize but to harmonize—to find a balance where individual aspirations and company goals can coexist and, where possible, mutually reinforce each other.
Tailor strategies to organizational scale
For scalability, tailor your cultural strategies to the size and nature of your organization. In larger companies, consider a more decentralized approach where cultural initiatives are adapted and implemented by smaller teams or departments. This approach allows for contextual adjustments while maintaining the overarching principles of the desired culture. It is also wise to leverage technology and digital platforms to ensure consistent communication and engagement across different levels and locations of the organization.
A Personal Appeal to Leaders in Transition
If you’re stepping into a leadership role, either as a CEO tasked with revitalizing an organization or a mid-senior level manager striving to create a positive change within your team, know that your journey, though challenging, is deeply meaningful. You’re not just managing tasks and objectives; you’re shaping the very essence of your workplace. I understand the weight of this responsibility; it’s a path I’ve walked myself.
To the CEOs: you have the unique opportunity to redefine and align the organization’s culture with its core values and vision. Your actions and decisions set the tone for the entire company. Remember, true transformation begins with a clear, authentic vision and a commitment to see it through, even when faced with resistance or skepticism.
To the mid-senior level managers: don’t underestimate the power of your influence within your team. You can create an oasis of positive culture, even in a challenging organizational environment. Your leadership can be a beacon of hope and a testament to what’s possible through dedication and empathy. Your efforts to foster a supportive, transparent, and motivated team will not only enhance your team’s performance but can also ripple outwards, inspiring change beyond your immediate sphere.
To anyone attempting this work: you have the ability to make a lasting impact. Seize it with both hands.
Embarking on the journey to sculpt a corporate culture that resonates deeply with both the organization’s and the employees’ aspirations is no small feat. It requires a blend of ambition, pragmatism, and unwavering commitment. The challenges are real and diverse, yet not insurmountable. By aiming high while remaining flexible and responsive to the unique dynamics of your organization, you can navigate these challenges effectively.
Having spent the better part of a year as the Chief People Officer for a one thousand person public company, I can attest to the magnitude of the task. You could essentially make this your life’s work, and you might never finish it. But that’s not the point.
The goal is not to achieve a utopian ideal but to foster a culture where employees feel genuinely connected, valued, and motivated to contribute to the collective success. In doing so, we not only elevate the corporate culture but also enhance the very essence of our business—its people.
In case you missed it, I am now doing 60-second videos on topics related to execution! I’m excited about this as it gives people the ability to know me in a different way. Here are the things I talked about this past week on Linkedin.
When you’re ready, there are two other ways I can help. Email me at email@example.com for more information.
I help growth-stage leaders and investors in B2B tech-enabled services businesses align strategy with execution. I focus on the twin engines of execution excellence—process and people—to transform your business, paving the way for growth and enhanced profitability.
With 20+ years of operating experience and a substantial M&A track record, I help investors evaluate strategic and operational strengths and weaknesses and navigate post-deal risks to unlock value.