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Editor's Notebook

Cracking the Corporate Culture Club

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Having recently changed jobs — and cities and states ®€” the issue of corporate cultures came to mind. I’ve had some experience with a variety of corporate cultures. Small family-owned companies. Large mega-corporations. North and south. Some great, others simply confounding.

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There’ve been countless articles about the corporate culture thing — why they are good, why they are bad, why they need to change. But have you thought about just how deeply ingrained they are in our lives?

Corporate culture is more than just our 9-to-5 worlds. It pervades every aspect of our lives. Ever think about what you do each morning after you wake up? What you do when you get home? Most refer to it as a "routine," but it is very much an extension of your company’s culture.

It’s how we see the world. A set of rose-colored glasses that shades the eyes from reality, causes us to misinterpret the real world and shape misconstrued realities.

Corporate culture is what separates companies competitively. It’s why 10 companies making or selling the same product could have 10 entirely different names for the exact same process, report or activity.

Corporate culture can also be divisional in nature, but not necessarily because of location or type of operation. Subdivide a company into independent units, and you have created corporate cultures not likely to mesh.

It differentiates us, divides us into smaller groups. It can steal our individuality, and it can define who and what we are as individuals. It’s why we talk the way we do and how we act and react to situations, even outside of the workplace.

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Corporate culture is why we feel the need to get together after work for drinks, go to company picnics, and play on the company softball team. To spend more time with people we already spend a bulk of our lives with.

Corporate culture is what makes us members of the club. Because we all want to belong to something. It even allows us to hold a soft spot in our hearts for a "heartless" company that has laid us off or even given us the boot.

It’s what gives our work lives meaning and purpose. Changing corporate cultures — through a new job or internally instigated change ®€” is one of most trying events in our lives. Little wonder there is so much resistance to change.

Corporate culture is a perpetual paradox. It’s what allows us to "get things done." And it’s the single-largest detriment to getting things done. It’s all about what’s convenient, not necessarily what’s best. And it’s all about what’s best and not necessarily convenient.

It’s why "we have always done it this way." And it is why "we are focused on meeting the changing needs of our customers."

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Corporate culture is all about attitude and altitude — how far are you willing to go, and how high are you willing to fly? ®€” for customers, suppliers, staff and family.

Corporate culture is a lot of things. The point is, how does your corporate culture really affect your business? Your people? Your family?

Is your corporate culture enabling? Or does it prevent or pre-empt people from doing their best? Does it encourage business or personal growth? Or is it a hammer that pounds down people and business? How does your corporate culture fit in with those of your customers or suppliers?

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