Chicago Tribune McLean, Bethany
Stories of business gone wrong are almost always stories of corporate culture gone wrong. Unfortunately, it is usually not easy for outsiders, or insiders, to diagnose a sick corporate culture. There are a few reasons why it is that even the employees of a company do not always see the real story. One is the human capacity for self-delusion, especially when there is money at stake. A person’s ability to rationalize is another reason they often do not see disaster unfolding. People rationalize that the end justifies the means, and that fudging the numbers in one quarter is simply providing a bridge to the better times that are sure to come. Executives want to please investors — and keep their jobs — by producing good earnings. However, that first bad decision often leads to a cascading series of bad decisions, and people end up somewhere they never imagined. Although disasters surely show how a culture can go wrong, they also provide lessons as to how creating corporate culture can be done well. One important rule is to focus on the long-term results of the actual business, and not short-term gratification, such as a juiced stock price. A second lesson is to promote a culture that values teamwork. Another issue to emphasize is a focus on economic reality, rather than accounting results. If a company rewards actions that produce real value, rather than those that produce the appearance of value, that is a good sign. Finally, it is important to create a culture where debate is encouraged, which will likely mean that corporate culture does not depend solely on the mercurial personality of any single executive.
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Corporate culture can be molded via the learning and development function.