The term “corporate culture” has been around for many years. Dr. Larry Senn, founder of Senn Delaney, is credited with coining the term over 30 years ago. He commented once that “every company has a culture – whether by design or default”.
If “strategy” – the hard-ball of a CEO’s focus – is described as setting the goals of an organization, “culture” deals with how to move everyone in the organization to actually achieving those goals in a unified way.
This week on The CEO TV Show I asked four innovative CEOs their thoughts on the importance of corporate culture. Arkadi Kuhlman, CEO of ING Direct; Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com; Bernie Marcus, co-founder and long time CEO of The Home Depot; and Shelly Lazarus, Chairman and former CEO of Ogilvy & Mather all share their unique perspectives.
Kuhlman parroted Dr. Senn’s view when he said, “Most corporate cultures are created in a vacuum. But managers can actually design and build it according to their objectives…. And culture has little to do with having everyone look and act alike; it might work for the military, but it won’t be very effective in a company.
Tony Hsieh said that when he joined Zappos.com as CEO, he focused entirely on creating the right kind of culture first and then hired people according to that culture.
As for Bernie Marcus, he describes particularly how important culture was in the early, formative years of The Home Depot.
Shelly Lazarus, who became CEO of Ogilvy & Mather, and is now its worldwide Chairman, explained its importance:
“Corporate culture is ALL important! It tells everyone in the company how to behave as an employee. It tells someone what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. I can’t personally talk to all 18,000 people in our company, but I can certainly clarify what the culture is and what our values are by being a personal representation of those value for all to see.”
Watch this weeks video on corporate culture to find out how these four CEOs deal with culture in their organizations.