Creating a Workplace Culture

Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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8 Responses

  1. Damon says:

    Interesting post Mike. I’ve seen and experienced some of this as well. I once transferred to an operating company from the corporate office. This operating company was purchased by my corporation 10 years earlier, and the culture had not changed on iota. Information I could routinely get from HR/Mngt in every other part of my corporation was flatly denied when I asked in this company.

    Then there was the time I worked with French, American, and Brits and learned a lot about the differences in how each of those cultures work, interpret phrases, and carry on.Report

  2. Pinky says:

    This is interesting. I’d be interested in hearing about how sense of identity (rather than just the identity itself) plays into all this, as well. There is an impulse in groups to resist merging cultures, to amplify the differences between approaches rather than break them down. New Hampshire needs to feel different from the rest of the company as much as it needs to feel the same. It may even be the case that NH needs to impact the Louisville culture. I guess I’m talking about a fourth language that has to play a role, the language the NH people currently use. Do you find that to be the case? That a new facility needs to retain some of its own culture to promote a sense of ownership?Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to Pinky says:

      Usually the new facility will have the ability to impact the culture in older facilities. In many ways these new operations become laboratories where we test out ideas and innovations based on lessons learned in the older locations. Then, if it is successful, we can bring those things back and begin to retrofit our older facilities, both physically and from a process standpoint.

      I definitely believe they need to create and retain some of their own culture. What that will look like is where I am very interested to observe.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        How much interaction with there be between NH and KY (or GA)? If each location runs more or less independently with some key players going back and forth, my hunch is that those key players will be the folks who are most adept at engaging cross-culturally.Report

        • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:


          The level of interaction remains to be seen but this new facility is a pretty big deal. I expect they will get a lot more attention that they really want. All of our top execs will want to show it off to potential new clients and it will be in their interest to make sure it runs well. In that respect, they will have more influence from corporate than usual.Report

  3. Kazzy says:

    I am increasingly fond of the iceberg metaphor when thinking about culture. See an example here:

    We tend to focus on the visible parts and often for good reason. But there is so much more to it. Interestingly enough, Mike, you demonstrate some key ‘underwater’ cultural elements, perhaps without even noticing it.

    For instance, you spoke about the different languages. What I immediately noticed was that when you were on the “vendor” side, you deferred to the client. And yet, when you were on the “client” side of your vendor, there was still some deference there. And you state that this isn’t just your personal belief, but something the company believes in. This communicates quite a bit about the underlying culture of the company, namely that it aims to truly partner with and work collaboratively with other groups. And I bet you, consciously or not, avoid hiring or retaining employees who don’t embody this spirit.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Kazzy says:

      At some point, lack of cooperation just creates its own grief. As a customer, you have to understand the supplier, and as a supplier, you absolutely have to understand the customer, and have to make sure the customer realizes it. It’s rare for an organization to have the kind of control to determine what everyone in the industry thinks, or talks like, or buys. If the industry is near the end of its life cycle, maybe the patterns are so well-established that you only have to abide by them, but even that entails conforming to outside standards. But most expansion occurs where the standards and culture is evolving quickly, and success in that environment requires understanding and good communication.Report

  4. Stillwater says:

    This is interesting stuff. I think it’s a real boon to your company that you’re not just thinking about this stuff as an abstract concept but as a real, tangible issue requiring some awareness. Eg., what aspects of work-place culture are within your power to control and what aspects are necessary for a functioning facility? That may sound overly vague, but I’ve been going thru some of these issues with my wife and her business partners and getting past the vagueness – down to specifics – is a really hard thing to do. Even relatively obvious ones – like consistent use of context-based language – are hard to address.

    Long story skipped right over: shaping a business culture is really hard without focusing on the purpose, expectations, goals (collective, individual), etc., of each person in the context of the role they’re being paid to play. Or maybe the better way to say it is that not focusing on those things allows for a more organic culture to emerge, one which may not be consistent with the overall goals of the business but ends up being harder to change.

    Actually, not sure how to say it….Report