Adjusting Corporate Culture

When a company recognizes their current corporate culture needs adjustments, it is usually by removing the negative aspects and hassles employees face due to poor operations and decision making. This article published by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Strategy + Business suggests that out of the three dimensions of corporate culture, behaviors are the most powerful for determining real change.

Identifying Principles of Corporate Culture

Adopting the 10 Principles of Organizational Culture will improve a company’s culture in ways that will make financial and operational success more probable for the company. The 10 Principles exemplify the behaviors that management should seek to change or improve to gain the desired result of improved culture overtime. The principles are as follows:

  1. Work with and within current cultural situations
  2. Change behaviors and mind sets will follow
  3. Focus on a critical few behaviors
  4. Deploy your authentic informal leaders
  5. Don’t let your formal leaders off the hook
  6. Link behaviors to business objectives
  7. Demonstrate impact quickly
  8. Use cross-organizational methods to go viral
  9. Align programmatic efforts with behaviors
  10. Actively manage your cultural situation over time

Questions Associated with Behavior Impacting Corporate Culture

The following questions are believed to be the best when starting the culture adjustment:

  1. What are the most emotional forces that determine what people do?
  2. What few behaviors changes would matter most in meeting strategic and operational imperatives?
  3. Who are the authentic informal leaders you can enlist?
  4. What can you and your fellow senior leaders do differently to signal and reinforce those critical behaviors?

The different principles can be used to answer each of these questions through guidance and examples.

What are the most emotional forces that determine what people do?

The answer to this question can be found in principles 1 and 2. Principle 1 addresses how simply upgrading or attempting a massive overhaul will have little to no impact on a deeply embedded corporate culture. For these types of cultures, it is important to identify the traits of the culture that will be of assistance and the others that will be a hindrance. For example, a company should not abandon one of its deeply rooted values because of shortcomings instead their emotional impact on employees can be used on other initiatives that will create success and offset the previous shortcomings. Principle 2 addresses how changing behavior will be followed up with a change in mindset. For example, instead of trying to implement different ways of thinking, the company will adjust the way daily operations are ran to be more centered around the empowerment, collaboration, and interpersonal relations of employees. This will result in employees caring about one another more and gaining more respect for the workplace.

What few behaviors changes would matter most in meeting strategic and operational imperatives?

The few behavior changes that would matter most in meeting strategic and operational imperatives can be found in principles 2, 6, 7, and 8. The changes in principle 2 involve improving empowerment, collaboration, and interpersonal relation. The improvement on empowerment can be seen with the oil company example in principle 6. The oil company made the price of expensive equipment available to employees who then made decisions to repair equipment rather than replace it. It also empowered another employee to speak against fans cooling the equipment in the winter which led to $750,000 of annual savings. The changes in principle 7 assist in both strategic and operational imperatives as implementing pilot tests gives the opportunity to test new strategies and behaviors within the organization and then the opportunity to implement them if they will benefit the corporate culture and finances. Collaboration is the behavior change that is focused on in principle 7. This behavioral change is mainly used by authentic informal leaders to spread information and new business tactics by collaborating in groups comprised of different parts within the business. Through months more members are added to the group as it becomes autonomous and leads to the development of interpersonal relations. Overall, this method increases performance and recognition within the business.

Who are authentic informal leaders you can enlist?

There are four types of authentic informal leaders pride builders, exemplars, networkers, and early adopters. Pride builders tend to be motivators and improve the situations around them by encouraging excellence. Exemplars are leaders who lead by example, they are well respected and act as influencers to their peers. Networkers are social leaders whose abilities lie in knowing the right people and places to find information and connecting employees with one another within the organization. Early adopters are leaders who are quick to experiment with new technologies, business practices, and processes. Examples of these four types of authentic informal leaders can be found in principles 4, 8, and 9.

What can you and your fellow senior leaders do differently to signal and reinforce those critical behaviors?

The ways senior leadership can change to signal and reinforce critical behaviors to change corporate culture is found in multiple principles. One of the ways comes from principle 5 which is holding senior leadership accountable because they are vital in starting the process. Senior leaders should have an emotional commitment to their responsibilities and always lead by example in upholding the culture for staff employees to follow. Another way is found principle 6, which involves linking behaviors to business objectives that can be measured overtime. This allows for employees to have an empowered role by improving operations in a measurable way. In principle 7, an additional way to signal and reinforce critical behaviors is a demonstration of the changes impact quickly. This is done by taking a select market and implementing the changes and measuring how successful they are. These results are then reported back to employees and influence them to adopt the necessary changes as it shows they can be imperative for improving the company. Principles 9 and 10 also apply which are aligning the structure in which people work with behaviors as well as managing the cultural situation actively overtime.


In summary, changing the corporate culture of a company is always a topic of discussion however it can be addressed in the wrong ways. Corporate culture consists of three dimensions which are symbolic reminders, keystone behaviors, and mind sets. The most important of the three dimensions is behaviors as they have a lasting change on the culture as they will also lead to a change in mind-sets. The different behaviors and ways the behaviors can be implemented and utilized is found within the 10 Principles of Organizational Culture. These 10 principles are imperative in answering the best questions senior leaders should ask themselves when reevaluating the corporate culture and its effectiveness.

Link: PricewaterhouseCoopers and Strategy + Business "10 Principles of Organizational Culture" Fall 2018

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