When a corporate culture and its accoutrements becomes a religious doctrine: 3 short case studies



In a recent post, I discussed  organizations that have a top-down, HR administered corporate religion and accoutrements which serve as a pseudo-sophisticated ideological veneer. This religious dogma inhibits, not enables, successive coping with a hostile environment. Three short case studies will illustrate.

Myname specializes in electronic signatures and ensuring the safety of financial transactions. Myname has just purchased Signit, which greatly enhances the user friendless of e-signatures in the mobile domain. The integration between the two companies is a failure. Myname, the dominant company, has a culture exhibited by 5 core values which are rammed downed peoples’ throat. The CEO decided to “re-examine the core values” in light of the integration difficulties. A major change was made. Instead of being a “People Company”, the value was changed to “We are All Family.” The integration failed.

Nowait is a mobile telephone company with a very strong top down cultural religion of “Responsiveness to our customers and our staff”. An overly zealous and under skilled HR department supervises the inculcation of this culture, almost by enema. Responsiveness is measured, over measured and measured again. The staff have learnt to beat the system, and the clients are leaving. The Head of HR and the Head of Training, OD and Telephony were recently replaced when an organizational survey had a response level of 12%. The CEO has just hired an HR goon from the military who “knows how to take a bunch of bums from the street and turn them into soldiers in six weeks.” The new HR’s managers key deliverable is to “get responsiveness back on the radar screen”.

Olam is a company with a religion of globalism. The world “global” is attached to everything done in the company. The dining halls serve “ethnic foods” in the company twice a week. Olam suffers lack of delegation to country managers, who feel they have no power over the corporate technical presales team. As a result, sales is falling because the initial pitch made by corporate is not tailored enough to local demands. The CEO has recently asked the HR manager to commission a webinar to “drive home the global message”. The CEO has never really defined “global” because “culture is HR’s domain”. And the HR manager, who ran a call center, also has a marketing background, and she wants the word “global” to capture employee “mindshare”.

These cases illustrate what can happen when the artefacts and accouterments of corporate culture are top-down/phoney as well as what happens when they are executed by HR managers who serve as mindless clergy.

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