Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Every company has a culture. Usually culture is a by-product of how the company is run by the current CEO or how it was run by the last CEO. It is rare in my experience for the CEO to say, "I don't like the culture and we are going to change it." Or to say, "What culture do I want at my company?" Yes, there are the rare CEO's that actually focus on the culture. But for the most part, it is about running a profitable business as if culture isn't that important.

And yet, a company's culture is an invisible force that runs throughout the company and affects everything that is done. Fortune has an article that point to the culture of Bear Stearns and that a few of its alumni may have been inflicted with the dark side of that culture.

Whether that is true or not or whether one can't paint with such a broad brush is neither here nor there. The real questions for today's leaders are the following:

What is your company's culture? Is it the culture you want? How are you going to get the culture you want?

Gail often says that she and her team at Andersen's Business Consulting Group were able to keep the group together because of the culture. In a crisis, you reap what you sow from your culture. Address the culture now so it will serve you well in a crisis.

Cheers, Mike


  1. Mike,

    The smaller the business the easier it is for the CEO to control the culture. As the company gets larger, the culture varies between groups or divisions. I oversee three companies, and each has a unique culture created by the people who work for it. The CEO's job is to make sure that culture works for the client, and produces positive cash flow. At Bear Sterns the Chairman was arrogant and more concerned with overseeing his bridge cards than overseeing a company. The CEO tried to avoid run on the bank but the machine was against him. In banking, once the discount window is closed, your done.

    Gail is a leader. She was part of a culture that worked and the team she was a part of made it work. They stuck together. The problem with people who want to be leaders is that you can't put yourself in charge and bark orders. A leader must make others feel that they are working not only for themselves, but for the group they are a part of. They have to believe in the cause and know that they, through you, will lead them to a better place.


  2. JR, all good points. To further amplify one of your points, it is easier for a CEO to control the culture of a small company. And for a larger company, it is a imperative that the CEO identify the culture of each company that the CEO oversees and to decide if that culture is appropriate and acceptable.

    Understanding and evaluating the culture of each division and company is a critical component of have systems and processes the the CEO can rely on to produce the desired results in the desired manner.

    Cheers, Mike