Friday, August 31, 2012

Business Culture: Part 4, the Corporate Cultural Network

This is the fourth part in a series of blog posts on Business Culture.  While we hear about corporate culture, a corporation, or any large organization consists of a network of related cultures.  VDML (Value Delivery Modeling language) under development at OMG, supports modeling of the network of collaborations, but does not address culture.
A corporation—or other agency or institution— is a potentially very large group of people, collaborating for a shared purpose. The corporation will have a broad culture derived from the corporate products, image, policies and relationships, but the corporation will have a complex network of more specific cultures of the many collaborations by which people do the work—both formal and informal collaborations.  The shared interests and beliefs, including relationships with customers, business partners and employees, along with concerns about the environmental, social and economic impact of the corporation, are elements of the umbrella culture that will affect the success of the corporation and provide a broad context for the more specific cultures of subordinate organizations. 
In an organization hierarchy, the goals of each collaboration will be defined by the organizational context. VDML defines an organization as a network of collaborations where certain, formal collaborations form the organizational hierarchy.  Different business functional groups will develop different cultures that, hopefully, complement the corporate culture.  Accountants will have a culture, engineers will have a culture, sales people will have culture, field services people will have a culture, and so on.  Furthermore, individual work groups will establish their own sub-cultures.  Other collaborations may cross traditional organizational boundaries and include informal relationships that may extend outside the organizational entity, including customers, suppliers and professional associations.  Success of the enterprise depends on success of the network of collaborations.
Corporate goals and incentives will be propagated down the corporate hierarchy and to other supporting collaborations.  The goals and incentives will be recursively translated to more specific goals and incentives of the collaborations where specific work is done.  The corporate hierarchy (typically) assembles people in subordinate organizations based on specific goals and required capabilities.  These goals are not culture.  Culture is the interests, beliefs, roles and relationships, mostly informal, that influence how these goals and associated operating objectives are addressed. 
The board of directors will have a culture, and the executive team will have a culture.  These have more to do with corporate strategy, governance and how they manage the business than how the operational work is accomplished.  The culture of the executive team will have the greatest impact on the rest of the enterprise due to their influence through the chain of command and control of incentives.  For success, the goals and incentives for each subordinate collaboration must be compatible with the culture of each parent collaboration.  Corporate policies and goals should also foster formation of informal collaborations and associated sub-cultures that cross formal organizational boundaries to enhance overall operation of the business.
From an enterprise perspective, employees are motivated primarily by the employment relationship and associated incentives.  Contributions are determined by required objectives, individual competencies and roles within the collaboration.  The commitment of the individual to success of a collaboration will depend on the goals, objectives and incentives of the collaboration and their compatibility with the individual’s interests and incentives that may be influenced by his or her participation in other collaborations, both formal and informal.  However, employees may also be motivated by their interests in the corporate products or the social, economic, environmental or political impact of the corporation.

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