External factors that may impact the cultures of organizations as the plague unfolds

It appears that this pandemic is not “one shot and you are dead”. Rather, it’s here for a long time, and even if a silver bullet is found and deployed in the near future (which won’t happen), the shock waves will last for a protracted period.

I have explained in this blog that organizational culture is formulated far more by external forces than by any other factor. True, leadership, idiosyncrasies and  luck all make a difference, yet external factors remain the dominant architects of organizational culture.

In this post, I want to point out a few external factors which will hugely impact organizational culture the longer that this plague lasts.

  • Jobs will become very scarce. Very scare. Like 4 leaf clovers. And that means that it becomes an employers’ world: sans work-life balance; sans perks; sans engagement; sans paid vacation; sans lunch coupons.
  • Choppy choppy is back in season; 3 jobs will become one. Three departments will become two. Six  engineers will become four. And until that happens, organizations will be war zones between people vying to be retained.
  • The roles and functions focused on gender equality and diversity will be totally marginalized and wither away. It’s a world of many people drowning and very few life jackets. If the virus continues to spread, organizations may develop filters for certain types of staff during recruitment, so as to minimize risk and possible quarantine.
  • This is the time for CFO’s, financiers, and risk-aversive folks to shine. Dreams, vision and big ideas will be relegated to the back burner.
  • With massive, rampant, extreme, widespread poverty at the gateway, companies will need to invest in security in a similar way that airlines did after 9/11. That means bogging things down with tremendous regulation and expense, which need to come from another pocket.

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25 thoughts on “External factors that may impact the cultures of organizations as the plague unfolds

  1. There’s also a choice in understanding the ecological wholes of our world and learn from the positive anchors of global cooperation, albeit in unhurried and select areas.

    The established supply chains will be reviewed for essentials, as against nice to have; as you have indicated for the labor market too. In the meantime, what you cite are more likely scenarios. That’s where a new light may fall, that labor and market may be up for new labels.

    • Actually, I missed mentioning a more basic point. Why would ‘organizational culture’ continue to hold definitions that it did before the pandemic? What mediators in space, time, technology, language and medium of interactions would constitute ‘culture’?
      What will require addition to the scope of ‘culture’ where the boundaries of social influence and interaction blur or separate?

  2. I understand your dark view. And perhaps even agree with some of the factors. I also see a world where new technologies, especially energy technologies will develop/evolve thus providing new streams of employment.

    I see the countries that have strong social safety nets thriving and expanding. Those countries (the US) that do not have strong social safety networks devolve further into fear and holding onto mythology rather than expand the social safety networks. Those who hold onto fear and mythology will be left behind. No amount of guns, god, and weapons will save them.

    I see people who passionately embrace change moving forward. This is a huge turning point in work evolution.

    I do not agree with dreams, visions, and big new ideas being moved to the back burner–those aspects will become the catalyst for new job creation.

    • Interesting.
      I think that new energy technologies will suffer as there is no lack of traditional sources of energy. But who knows.
      As far as big ideas go….they need money.
      And there is money but far far less than b4.
      And investors won’t wait years for return

      • Here are my thoughts:
        Even though there is no lack of traditional sources, there is a lack of distribution. Folks are waking up and installing solar and other renewable energy at greater rates. There was an article that wind generation of electricity has outpaced coal burning plants in Iowa and Texas.
        For big ideas, Venture capital money can and probably will come from private sources.
        The investors will probably not have to wait years for returns. That said, are investors willing to wait years for recovery?

          • Solar is not as expensive as you think. Mike and I installed solar when we moved into our home three years ago. The price of the technology has been dropping quickly. Wind power is another story–more political

            the bottom line is no one wants to piss off the oils and fossil fuel companies.

  3. Should your view of the future occur (and I fear you are 100% right, Allon) the safety net will have to expand into things like Universal Basic Income. Otherwise unintended side effects will flower e.g. poverty will skyrocket . All of which will lead to the erosion of society.

  4. Aha! The “swells who run the show” will have far fewer and much smaller shows to run – and on a much different basis. I expect to see some kind of sizable redistribution of wealth. Otherwise, I expect to see violence.

      • I tend to think that inequalities will increase dramatically. All large scale venues (restaurants, theaters, music halls, sports events – even shopping malls) will be limited, unable to ‘pack’em in’. Thus prices will rise and only a few can afford a meal out or a theater event.
        However I do see some new avenues for growth – particularly in the tech sector. I am not sure if working from home will fail (I personally work better from home, though it has its limitations from a management perspective) but entertainment from home will expand – cheaper and easier and safer.
        If a second wave of the virus occurs too that will also have an impact. As it stands it is believed that global poverty will double in the next year. Nationalism will continue to thrive and grow. Less travel.
        Yet I also have hope for pockets of humanity, and greater cohesion on a community level.

  5. really liked todays blog. Been thinking about how to teach Marketing Strategy to my MBA class next fall. Whole new ball game out there now – old cases and models have flown out the window. New challenge is how do we create value in this new world order. No CEO’s I have spoken to want to pay consultants for a strategy on how to get them out of Post Virus mess. In part it is because they don’t have any money. In part it’s because they will figure out a survival strategy on their own doing the things that make common sense – I had 100 stores, how can I survive with 40? I had an organization chart with these many people, now I only need to realign for this many. We learned to work from home, so why all the office space and plants and cleaning? I can pay people for what they do, not by what they are called – new concept!
    Strategy will become organizational realignment, with new job descriptions and structures and a flat org chart. The traditional marketing “4 P’s” don’t mean that much – sure you need to create value at a cost that makes profit, but the forgotten “P” – Profit – will become “S” – Survival. Corporate culture will make a big comeback.
    I hate the words “paradigm shift” and beg my students not to use the phrase, but in our new marketing world old strategies and their paradigms are gone. What is the new service model? Where will money come for creativity? There are no ads in our newspapers in Toronto because there is nothing to advertise, everything is closed, and nobody has any money to buy anything anyway. While really strong brands will survive, others will turn on their heads. Who pays Uber or Door Dash $ 8 to deliver some burgers and fries to their house? Millennials, that’s who. So much for the old Burger King Case. Who in their right minds will ever step on a cruise ship again? Only an idiot.
    So what’s next and what have we learned? You can see fish swimming in the clear water in Venice today. But nobody will want to go to Italy for a long long time. This has taught us nothing. Because climate change is the next big catastrophe coming with its attendant famine and population shifts and riots and days when it will be too hot to go outside. But we can’t see this coming. We just yearn for some freedom and fresh air right now, we cannot focus on much else.

  6. In the near future, until this outbreak is controllable, only centralized, enlightened, strategic and consistently strong federal leadership can hopefully deal with the social and economic fallout on a national basis. More government regulation and protocols will be the order of the day to assure long term security. As such, business will be in a reactive mode to comply with imposed burdens on the one hand and still be able to finance changes in methodology and ensure profitability in a revised business model on the other. As both international trade and domestic demand for goods contract, industry will become more dependent on government contracts and subsidies for viability. No easy feat but those countries that cannot emerge with workable plans along with public and industry support will be crippled both economically and socially. There is no turning back and a comprehensive national survival policy will necessarily have to address the multitude of inter-related socio-economic issues for any chance of long term success. There is opportunity but it will require a different perspective and focus and its implementation will be more difficult realize than under previous, more favourable conditions.

  7. Allon – Great post! A couple of thoughts: As Ed Schein, says and I elaborate on, organizational cultures are the assumptions that tend to dictate how we think act and feel in an organization. Cultures are built through solving the problems that groups face when their lives are disrupted and they form new assumptions based on what worked. This being a major disruption, leaders and managers have a golden opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the new culture. Unfortunately, most of the impulses that drive the formation of those new assumptions will be based in the old culture and, as you imply, the CFO’s sense of what worked in the past. These choices are not made in a particularly conscious manner – remember they’re based on assumptions which are the wall paper of the organization, division or the team. So, while I fear that you are probably correct in your predictions, the situation cuts both ways. Their are choices to be made and a few of us may have the opportunity to influence those choices towards new cultures.

  8. I pray that you’re wrong, Allon, & I fear greatly that you’re right. But I don’t see anything factoring in the impact of remote work…

  9. I tend to think that inequalities will increase dramatically. All large scale venues (restaurants, theaters, music halls, sports events – even shopping malls) will be limited, unable to ‘pack’em in’. Thus prices will rise and only a few can afford a meal out or a theater event.
    However I do see some new avenues for growth – particularly in the tech sector. I am not sure if working from home will fail (I personally work better from home, though it has its limitations from a management perspective) but entertainment from home will expand – cheaper and easier and safer.
    If a second wave of the virus occurs too that will also have an impact. As it stands it is believed that global poverty will double in the next year. Nationalism will continue to thrive and grow. Less travel.
    Yet I also have hope for pockets of humanity, and greater cohesion on a community level.

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