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82 Corporate Cultures

        posted by , February 19, 2013

Imagine yourself working in a typing pool in the 1940s.

typing pool

The bashing noise of mechanical typewriters is deafening. You must ask permission to go to the toilet. Toilet breaks are timed, if you take too long you'll be docked pay. Your performance is measured in words per minute.

You're paid weekly in cash. Your salary is determined by your grade and years of experience.

The typing pool of the 1940s, is one example of a corporate culture (organizational culture) that has gone extinct — and for good reason.

Businesses live and die by their corporate cultures.

Definition of Corporate Culture

Corporate culture is the way an organization produces value, innovates, develops its employees, satisfies its customers and achieves financial results.

Corporate culture is your style of management. It's your values, strategy, work environment, political landscape, norms, systems, beliefs, symbols and habits.

Some organizations have loose cultures that are left to evolve naturally. Individual styles play a big role in how things get done.

Other organizations have strong cultures. They carefully select new employees by culture-fit. Their culture is a highly prized and closely guarded asset.

The following 82 examples of corporate culture aren't mutually exclusive. They represent the most common corporate cultures found today.

Management Styles

1. Fear Uncertainty and Doubt
Management seeks to maintain its power by creating an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty. Employees are kept in the dark or provided with misinformation.

2. Command and Control
A military style command and control organization. A strict hierarchy (command structure) defines authority.

3. Democratic
Decisions are arrived at by consensus.

4. Dictatorship
A single manager exercises complete authority over an organization.

5. Oligarchy
Authority is in the hands of a small group of executives. Authority isn't delegated.

6. Paternalistic Culture
In a paternalistic organization, management takes employee's best interests into account when making decisions. In return, employees are highly dedicated. The harmony of the group is highly valued. Many large Japanese and Korean companies are considered paternalistic organizations.

7. Laissez-faire
Organizations that provide employees with a high degree of freedom. Such organizations have little sense of teamwork — everyone is an individual contributor. Many universities take a laissez-faire approach to managing professors.

8. Political Culture
Organizations in which politics determine direction. Infighting between political factions can be a major distraction. Decisions reflect political compromises.

9. Chaotic Culture
An organization with a weak culture that's heavily influenced by individual styles. When an influencer leaves the organization the organization's culture may swing wildly.

Strategy & Tactics

10. Innovation Culture
An organization that seeks innovation and creativity. Constant change is the rule.

11. Strategy Culture
An organization that sets a long term strategy and executes it.

12. Tactics Culture
An organization that takes advantage of fast-breaking opportunities.

13. Copy Culture
An organization that copies the strategy of industry leading companies. Strategy changes regularly as the organization follows the latest trends and fads.

14. Not Invented Here
An organization that reinvents everything (low acceptance for anything not invented internally).

15. Certainty and Administration
An organization that values certainty. Complex administrative processes are put up as barriers to change.

16. Short Term Focused
An organization with a short term (quarterly) view. In some cases, the long term success of the organization may be jeopardized in favor of short term results.

17. Long Term Focused
An organization with a long term view. In some cases, the long term plan becomes an excuse not to deliver results in the short term.

Work Assignments

18. Action Items
Meetings are the primary means of assigning work. Work is tracked as action items.

19. Contract the Contract
Work is mostly outsourced. In some cases, management of outsource contracts is also outsourced. Insiders focus on vendor management.

20. Roles
Work is divided by role. Roles are defined by job descriptions and may be highly specialized.

21. Responsibilities
Work is divided by results-focused responsibilities (e.g. revenue targets).

22. Self Drive
Employees are expected to be self-driven. Employees initiate their own projects and initiatives.

23. You Find It, You Fix It
Employees are expected to take responsibility for any issues or problems they uncover. For example, if a customer approaches an employee with a problem that employee must help the customer until the problem is resolved.


24. Standing Meetings
Organizations that set rules designed to minimize distractions from core work. For example, staff may stand in a circle for meetings and set ground rules designed to keep meetings short.

25. Employee Monitoring & Control
Carefully monitoring and control of employee behavior. For example, time sheets or monitoring internet usage.

26. Trust & Verify
Organizations that trust employees and give them freedom to work as they like. Results are verified.

27. Quantified Performance Management
Companies that design jobs to be measured by metrics. This can lead to neglect of anything that isn't measured. For example, if a retailer measures only how many customers a cashier can serve in an hour — cashiers may skip on customer service to improve their speeds.


28. 80/20 Innovation
Employees are encouraged to spend 20% of their time on their own projects. The idea is that personal projects may bloom into innovative company projects.

29. Creative Spaces
Office spaces are designed to spark creativity.

30. Play to Innovate
A fun and playful atmosphere is encouraged in hopes of inspiring creative thought.

31. Flat to Innovate
Organizations with a flat (non-hierarchical) design that allows everyones' ideas to be heard.

32. Integrated Teams
Teams are designed to have diverse skill sets. For example, a team that includes engineers, technologists, marketing and sales specialists.

33. Culture to Innovate
Employees are provided access to music, art, fine food and other cultural benefits in hopes of cultivating creativity.

Work-Life Balance

34. Work-hard, Play-hard
Organizations that encourage employees to work long hours followed by long hours of intense team building.

35. Fixed Schedule
Employees are required to work regular hours (often 9-5). In such organizations, employees may be resistant to working overtime or irregular hours even in a business crisis.

36. Flexible Schedule
Employees may set their own schedule (often within prescribed limits). In return for flexibility, employees are often expected to be reachable for long hours each week.

37. Remote Teams
Organizations that regularly form geographically distributed working teams.

38. Work Anywhere
Organizations that allow employees to work from home or remote locations.


39. Cowboy Culture
A risk-taking culture with fast feedback cycles (e.g. sports or financial trading).

40. One Big Risk
A risk-taking culture with slow feedback cycles (e.g. space programs). The future of the entire organization may be bet on one project.

41. Aggressive Cultures
Employees are expected to be aggressive and ambitious.

42. Risk Adverse
Employees are expected to be conservative and minimize risk.

43. Status Quo Cultures
Organizations that value consistency and resist change.

Managing Problems

44. Management by Exception
Management by exception is a technique whereby managers focus on strategic initiatives (such as new product development). Management only gets involved in day-to-day business processes when there's a significant issue.

45. Military Discipline
The use of military style courtesy and discipline to enforce the authority of a command structure.

46. Denial Culture
An organization that suffers from hubris (extreme pride and arrogance) may ignore failure. For example, a consultant who angers an important customer may nonetheless receive positive performance feedback from his/her manager.

47. Group Problem Ownership
Everyone in an organization is expected to take responsibility for failure. For example, the CEO may personally apologize to a important customer for a problem.

48. Individual Problem Ownership
The organization puts responsibility for failure on the shoulders of the person who caused the problem. For example, staff may not apologize to a customer for a mistake if they aren't personally responsible.

Decision Making

49. Ringiseido
A Japanese management methodology whereby all managers (at equal levels) must review each others' decisions. Proposals are written up and circulated for approval or rejection amongst management peers. Finally, the proposal goes to an upper level manger who makes the decision (decisions are final). The Ringiseido process allows executive leadership to see if their managers agree on an approach before committing to it.

50. Groupthink
Organizations that make extensive use of meetings to make decisions are at danger of groupthink. Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon whereby group decisions reflect the social dynamics of the group rather than a rational solution to the problem at hand.

51. Political Machine
Politics are used to make decisions. Employees need to find political support to drive initiatives forward.

52. Transparent (Communication Driven Decisions)
Organizations that require transparency for major decisions. Rationale and supporting information for each decision must be openly communicated.

53. Automation & Data Driven Decisions
Organizations that seek to automate decisions or provide decision makers with data for their decisions.

54. Decision Modeling
Organizations that require decisions to be modeled using predefined techniques or documentation templates.

55. Leadership Driven Decisions
Organizations that encourage influencing without authority. This approach allows leaders to develop and lead the decision making process.

56. Lessons Learned Culture
Organizations that perform post-decision analysis to learn from successes and mistakes.

Rituals and Routines

57. Management by Walking Around
Companies that expect senior managers to be highly visible. Managers may also be expected to understand working-level processes and issues.

58. Team Building Culture
Organizations that value team building exercises.

59. Morning Rituals
Daily rituals such as short morning meetings designed to boost morale at the start of each work day.

60. Event Culture
Companies that maintain a busy event schedule for employees.

61. Eat Your Own Dog Food
Employees are expected to use the company's products as often as possible. For example, Toyota workers request a Toyota when they call for a cab.

62. Rites of Passage
Organizations that fill an employee's career with rites of passage such as promotions, achievements and recognition of milestones.

63. Corporate Etiquette
Companies that have specialized rules of etiquette that give working life a unique flavor.

64. Social Life Integration
Organizations that encourage integration of employee's work and personal life. For example, family days that allow children to come to work to see what their parents do.


65. Diversity & Equal Opportunity
Companies that value diversity and equal opportunity.

66. Respect for the Individual
Organizations that respect individuality and encourage employees to be themselves at work.

67. Respect for the Group
Companies that stress an individual's responsibilities to their team. For example, the expectation that employees be punctual and professional.

68. Shared Value Culture
Organizations that publish a set of values. Employees are expected to adhere to values. Values may be adaptable (change with time).

69. Commandment Culture
Organizations that have rules that aren't flexible and don't change with time.

Value Focus

70. Customer Service Orientation
Companies that are focused on serving customers. Profits are invested in building a better customer experience.

71. Shareholder Value
Companies that are focused on generating profits for owners.

72. Employee Value
Organizations that are focused on the interests of insiders (employees).

73. Executive Compensation
Organizations that pour large amounts of money into executive compensation.

Customer Service

74. Automated Customer Service
Companies that seek to automate the customer service experience.

75. Customer Commoditization
Organizations that have no interest in establishing a relationship with customers. They view customers as undifferentiated (all the same).

76. Customer Relationship Management
Organizations that seek to actively establish and manage relationships with customers.

77. Customer Experience Innovation
Companies that seek to innovate the customer experience.

78. Bureaucratic Customer Experience
A highly bureaucratic customer experience. This is characteristic of organizations that have a monopoly or strong position in the marketplace.

79. Customer Victimization
Organizations that seek to take advantage of customers. Such organizations may push the limits of the law.

Symbols & Myths

80. Corporate Aesthetic
Organizations that promote a corporate aesthetic or look and feel (e.g. corporate colors).

81. Organizational Stories and Myth
Companies that motivate employees with stories and myth. For example, challenges the company has overcome.

82. Slogans
Organizations that use marketing strategies such as slogans and branding to motivate employees.

This post is an installment in the ongoing series of articles called Management: The Missing Manual.

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