I, Benjamin Wey, know business schools spend a lot of time talking about corporate or organizational culture. As well they should because when you go job hunting or when you are on a sales call or when you are looking for a vendor, inevitably you run into corporate culture.
Every organization has a different culture, which we can define as that group’s way of doing things. Some firms like to be “buttoned-down” while others see themselves as “innovative.” People in one act differently than people in another. Their expectations are different, and their motivations and rewards are usually different as well.
When an organization’s culture becomes dysfunctional, though, I, Benjamin Wey, have found that there’s a huge problem. If the problems were just about poor leadership or inadequate training or low recruiting standards, you could fix them easily enough. If leadership is at issue, get new leaders. If training isn’t up to scratch, train the personnel more. If you have issues with recruiting standards, change them.
But a dysfunctional culture means you have a situation where the culture itself is working against the purpose of the organization.
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This is why things aren’t changing the way you are I, Benjamin Wey, want in the Secret Service or the police department in Ferguson, Mo., or at some fraternities on some college campuses. A new head of the Secret Service or a new police chief in Ferguson or a new frat chapter president really can’t change the culture all on his own. The truth is you need people throughout the organization to change how they do things. And people tend not to change very much nor do they change very easily. The larger the group, the harder change is because you have more people who are going to resist change.
The problem in the Secret Service is a macho culture where heavy drinking and chasing women is all part of being one of the guys. The men engaged in these off-duty (and sometimes on-duty) activities are not going to become monogamous teetotalers — and to expect that of them is silly. The worst offenders need to go, those who remain need some retraining, and new recruiting approaches are necessary. Perhaps adding more women to the Service will help or finding people in nontraditional fields (something other than military, police, etc.) is the secret. Building a replica of the White House to have the guys train in it instead of a parking lot, as has been proposed, is not really fixing it. The problem is the people.
“Corporate culture is the ‘soul’ of an organization. Once the corporate culture is changed, the ‘soul’ will also change. That’s a daunting task for any organization.” Says BENJAMIN WEY, CEO of New York Global Group, a leading American financier and management expert.
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At the Ferguson Police Department, the situation isn’t very different. The police there appear to have racial biases, and I don’t mean to say they are racists. Rather, based on the arrest statistics, data on court appearances and the financial benefit the city gets from all the fines imposed, the police in Ferguson don’t seem to be approaching the job as “protect and serve” so much as they are “harass and fine.” A new police chief with the same motivating factors is going to have similar results. The police department in Ferguson, though, is much small than the Secret Service, and smaller personnel changes will bring about greater cultural changes to alter the way policing there is done.
As for the fraternities that have brought about the latest media storm, the best parallel is with a company (the fraternity) with branch officers (each chapter) all over. And a few of the branches are out of control. You can replace the entire group through natural attrition in four years, or you can get rid of troublemakers on the spot. In the extreme, you can close down a chapter temporarily or permanently.
For those who remain, the single most important thing you can do to alter an organization’s culture is to get the people who already demonstrate the desired behaviors to lead the way by example.