An aggressive organizational culture as seen from within

As we saw in the last post, Canadian Doug and Israeli Yael created a company known for  aggressive commitments, and despite slips in delivery dates, clients were compensated by “over delivery in quality and features” which delighted their clients.

They paid very very well, and drove their staff hard. People worked 14 hours a day; no one even paid lip service to work life balance. Cell phones were expected to be on all the time.

The company had  a semi official motto which said “we make a religion out of our problems.” Company meetings were brutal; all the issues were always at the center of the table, and communication was brusque and aggressive. Very often, there were tears and outbursts of anger in the daily meetings.

But why did Yael and Doug design the company as they did? In over a hundred hours with them, I managed to understand that their belief system as  detailed below. This belief system explains their company culture.

a-Building and running business in a highly competitive environment is like boxing. “THAT is no country for old men”, wrote Yeats. In other words, the tough win and the weak get the cr-p knocked out of them. The company and its people  need to be a winners: innovative, flexible, fast, fast, fast and faster. And they also need to be resilient and absorb a punch.

b-Speed and flexibility cause intense conflicts to surface; dealing with these conflicts politely or cordially makes no sense. There is a need for timely resolution, i.e., the task becomes more important than peoples’ feelings at that particular moment. Members of the organization need to “fight for” what they believe in. The system should be not optimized, but there should a constant struggle between competing dichotomies, like `first to market`and feature rich“.

c-Meetings where priorities are worked out are like boxing matches. Each side advocates its own interest and hits hard.  If you chose the right people, this creates great decisions because committments are very aggressive, yet do-able. Compromise happens because people respect one another…..the psychology of a tough neighborhood.

d-Putting up a fight for what you believe in means you care. It is easy to trust people who care. It is harder to trust people who are expedient and do not advocate for what they believe and are viewed as “phoney`or wimps”`, or both.

e-Trust between worthy opponents needs to be leveraged to create very strong relationships out of the ring, which are leveraged and tested in the ring.

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3 thoughts on “An aggressive organizational culture as seen from within

  1. This is a great philosophy until it goes so far as to distract the organization from the external battle in the marketplace and substitute an internal quest for victory among peers – the loser in the end is the Company. Very few leaders can keep the internal energy from turning destructive for very long while sustaining the aggressive juices for positive results. The first step is awareness of the limits to this totally aggressive approach and a conscious plan to keep the external focus – which is an art more than a science and usually held by very, very few leaders.

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