When Business Goals and Company Culture Clash

Business growth and profitability is the stuff of legends.

Companies that astound investors, employees and the business media with sustained or unprecedented expansion become the darlings of the global financial markets and the spotlight grows on the careers of the executive officers, non-executive directors and innovators who made it all happen.

It is not surprising, then, that we are all chasing the same dreams. Growth leads to new opportunities. New opportunities present the potential to change the things around us. And recognition enables influence on a scale sometimes unimagined.

Yet there comes a time in the development of any company - large or small, public or private - when the risk of significant imbalance between corporate objectives and company culture escalates and begins to threaten continued business growth.


It is time like those that define companies.

It is in such instances when the owners of a company reveal their true intentions, inhibitions and fears.

And this is precisely when high performing executives begin to ask themselves whether it makes sense to work "all out" for the growth of their business when the reality is that corporate culture or fears about how growth may change it is holding them - and their organisations - back like an anchor.

Particularly for companies with long legacies or foreign owners, the stakes are very high when it comes to aligning business growth objectives with the corporate culture insiders see as the key, unifying force that has positioned the organisation for success in the first place.

The simple truth when it comes right down to it, is that even the most ambitious corporate plans for growth may collapse under the weight of questions about retaining company culture.
One can almost hear the words, often attributed to Peter Drucker, resonate with this issue: "Organisational culture eats strategy for breakfast..."

That is why it is essential for executives already in a key leadership role or contemplating a move to a new company and management opportunity to probe considerably on the state of balance between business goals and company culture.

Questions one might ask could include:

"What elements of the culture are the owners willing to sacrifice in order to achieve business growth?"

"How much growth would the owners need to realise to be convinced that the culture needs to change?" and,

"Am I being compensated to preserve company culture, achieve business growth, or both?" And in the very likely case the response from company owners is "both", how are the financial incentives and rewards balanced to recognise both sides of the coin?

The pursuit of big dreams forces these tough questions and requires thoughtful answers. There is a natural conflict between ambition and identity. On a human scale, it is a question of knowing one's self. In corporate terms, it is a matter of sacrifice versus comfort and the willingness to confront one's fears.

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