Understanding of Corporate Culture

What is Corporate Culture?

Corporate culture encompasses all the prevailing values, norms, and attitudes that determine decisions, actions, and behaviors within a company. Or, to put it another way, corporate culture influences how we deal with each other, solve tasks or make decisions.

Corporate culture includes basic convictions, values, naturally shared beliefs, as well as communication and behavior patterns, and associated expectations according to which action is taken. Corporate culture shapes how we function as a company, how our structures are set up, how we communicate and cooperate with each other, and what behavior is judged to be appropriate or inappropriate.

Corporate Culture: the Unofficial Rules of the Game

Corporate culture is often represented with an iceberg model – because the majority of the elements in which corporate culture is reflected and that affect it are not visible at first glance.

Corporate culture can also be understood as unofficial rules of the game in an organization that everyone follows as a matter of course. Why unofficial?

Because the culture as a whole cannot be written down anywhere.

There are often guidelines, manuals, or the like, but in practice, people deviate from these rules. The unofficial rules of the game show what room for maneuver there is and what desired and undesired behaviors and expectations exist beyond that. Newcomers to a company learn the “right” behavior by imitating the behavior of employees who have been with the company for a longer period of time and have therefore already adapted to the applicable rules of the game.

Moreover, culture cannot be established by decree or at the push of a button – it develops independently out of our everyday interactions and we are often hardly aware of it, even though it is always there.

Iceberg Modell Corporate Culture Unternehmenskultur
Own representation and interpretation, based on the models by Edgar Schein and Edward T. Hall

Good or Bad Corporate Culture?

Basically, there is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” corporate culture. What matters is the fit with the strategy and the corporate goals.

Every company has its own rules and its own culture. In some cases, there are also smaller or larger differences from one organizational unit to the next.

The important thing to remember is that there is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” corporate culture. Various features of the existing culture can be either inhibiting or conducive to certain developments: An airport, for example, is very focused on safety and control – and that is important. If a screw is found under an aircraft, it is necessary to find out as quickly as possible where this screw came from in order to ensure that all relevant parts are still fastened according to regulations. In a start-up, on the other hand, one of the team members would probably kick the screw through the office or pick it up and throw it in the trash can, because here the focus is usually on other things and behaviors such as creativity, speed, and proximity to the market in order to keep the organization functioning and build competitiveness.

Therefore, corporate culture must always be considered in the context of strategy and corporate goals.

Accordingly, developing corporate culture is about much more than creating a pleasant working environment.

If market conditions change, companies not only need to react on the strategic side – the corporate culture must also accompany the change. This is also the case for us. We are currently observing major changes that are already affecting us or will affect us in the future and to which we must adapt. For this reason, the culture survey process we have launched is of great importance in connection with the goals we want to achieve with our business strategy 2030.

How can Corporate Culture be changed or developed?

Corporate culture cannot be changed at the push of a button or fixed by a management decision.

Corporate culture can neither be worked on in the short term nor directly because, as described above, it involves long-practiced and established patterns of behavior that are firmly anchored in our minds, our structures, and our communication and decision-making routines. This development takes time and cannot be brought about at the push of a button. We cannot decide that from tomorrow onwards we will all be willing to experiment, or throw years of practiced forms of collaboration overboard from one day to the next if we want to develop sustainably.

However, before we start developing our corporate culture, we first need a picture of the status quo: How is our current culture perceived throughout WIKA? Are there differences between the regions? What makes us strong today, what inhibits us? What are the requirements for a future culture so that WIKA continues to be successful?

In order to arrive at a common picture and a common language here, we are conducting a culture survey in cooperation with the consulting firm SEDLÁK & PARTNER. For this purpose, we use the Systemic Culture Compass.