How can the organizational culture reinvent a company

"The corporate culture is the most important success factor"

Corporate culture is more and more on the agenda in management. Doris Albisser, partner at Eurasia Competence AG, explains in an interview why company bosses nevertheless underestimate the topic.

Ms. Albisser, what is a good corporate culture?

A good culture is based on shared values, trust and openness. It is also shown by the fact that every specialist and manager carries out the tasks that best suit their abilities. Not only the employees benefit from this, but ultimately the entire company. Most people have a high level of personal responsibility and want to do a good job. You get a lot more out of a company when the teams think for themselves, work together on their own and pull together in the implementation. Executives should set strategic guard rails and not practice micromanagement. It's a matter of trust.

As the head of the translation company CLS Communication AG, you ran a company with 600 permanent employees worldwide. Has your trust been abused from time to time?

Not really. Wherever possible I have been on a long leash and have mostly had good experiences with it. If employees do abuse their trust, you have to react quickly and take the reins in hand. Employees have to feel where the limits are.

Many companies have to reinvent themselves. With what corporate culture does this change succeed?

A spirit of optimism should be developed. Managers can shape this to a certain extent. Employees need freedom to try new things and they should be allowed to make mistakes. This increases the willingness to experiment and innovate in the company. This working atmosphere should be exemplified at all management levels. It is important, however, that employees do not see their creative freedom as a free pass for a general tolerance for mistakes. Otherwise, efficiency and customer satisfaction will ultimately suffer.

What else is counterproductive?

In companies, change is also inhibited when managers rely on purely fact-based analyzes, impose rigid guidelines on employees and introduce excessive controls. All of this leads to employees becoming suspicious.

In corporations, cultural programs are in vogue. Can a bad corporate culture be reversed in this way?

Cultural programs in corporations can very well help, as long as the desired corporate culture is lived at all levels. To carry out only one workshop on this topic falls short of the mark. It seems important to me to create a climate of trust and mutual respect. This also includes promoting talent. It is important that the management trusts and expects the employees to do something. A specialist should be able to switch to a management position if they are suitable and interested. But the reverse should also be possible in the company, namely to return to the department without losing face.

Corporate culture is increasingly becoming an issue in boards of directors and management. Can culture be prescribed from above?

Corporate culture is more and more on the agenda in management, but it is usually seen as a soft factor. Company bosses often underestimate the cultural dimension in their strategic considerations. The cultural understanding has to come from above, but the management team alone can never shape the corporate culture. This always happens in the teams, and every single employee should make their contribution.

How important is the corporate culture for the success of a company?

The corporate culture is the most important success factor. You can see this in the fact that, according to studies, over 70% of mergers and acquisitions do not lead to the planned results because the employees of the two companies cannot work together. Problems usually arise when the acquiring company wants to impose its culture on the other company. When making an acquisition, you should rather give the partner the feeling that you want to be successful together with them. Otherwise you will lose good specialists and managers. So when it comes to cultural challenges, it gets down to business. Peter Drucker, the pioneer of modern management theory, once said: "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." I would even go a step further: "Culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner."

As Partner at Eurasia Competence AG advise companies expanding into Asia. How important are the cultural differences?

Culture plays a very big role. If you want to work together efficiently, you have to know the differences exactly. Otherwise, misunderstandings quickly arise. When advising companies, we focus on the intercultural aspect. The Chinese way of working may seem chaotic to the Swiss, but the Chinese simply work differently because they think differently. Companies can use the cultural differences to their advantage by building on the specific competencies. If desired from a strategic point of view, you can, for example, set up analytical work in Switzerland and implement it in China.