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Defining Your Corporate Culture


Defining Your Corporate Culture


Jesse Jacoby explains how to define and communicate your concept of corporate culture. 

Ask 100 managers how they define organizational culture, and you’ll probably get as many different definitions as possible. Even scholars cannot agree; and that means that your definition is as appropriate as anyone else’s. This makes the challenge, however, of creating the culture that you want particularly difficult, because it is almost impossible to hit a target that is ambiguous.

How can you describe something abstract in concrete terms?

How do you say, “This is what I want,” when there is no this to point to?

And how do you say, “I don’t want that,” when you cannot point to it either?

At best, you can only identify parts of instances or results that please or displease you.

Perhaps that is the wrong way, or at least the less helpful way, to look at it.

Before you can decide what culture, you want, you need to consider the elephant in the room. The elephant is that culture, no matter how you define it, is touchy-feely. It is all about the people in your organization and their collective attitudes, expectations, and behavior. And so, whatever you want must be thought of in terms of what they do; how they’ll act and react collectively.

The easiest way to decide what culture you want is to start with someone else’s definition, and then add to it according to your needs.

For example, organizational culture has been described as a kind of personality. When you think about it like that, then you can delineate between the one in your organization and the one in someone else’s. You may not be able to identify all the differences exactly, but at least it will give you a starting point.

One characteristic might be the way your organization thinks or the assumptions that it makes. Another could be what people believe about its capabilities or weaknesses. Another could be the things that are important to them.

There will also be norms that define whether the rules, written or unwritten are followed, what to expect if they are, the consequences if they are not, and who makes them. All these things contribute to that elusive intangible called culture.

One study describes culture “as the emotional environment shared by members of the organization. It reflects how staff feel about themselves, about the people for whom and with whom they work, and about their jobs.”[1]

This sense of sharing is central to most definitions, and things such as expectations and attitudes create emotions.


Key points include:

  • Dealing with perceptions
  • The thoughts-feelings connections
  • Creating the culture you want


Read the full article, How to Create the Culture You Want, on