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Questions to Be Addressed

This book addresses the following questions:

  • How does culture contribute to and detract from an organization's success?

  • How, if at all, does an organization's culture affect its attractiveness as a place to work; employee loyalty, engagement, "ownership," turnover rates, and productivity; rate of new business development; client loyalty; and record of referring new business?

  • To what extent can we estimate the importance of a culture's influence on performance in relation to other traits such as leadership, business strategy, the quality of execution, organization, and policies and practices?

  • How is the value of a culture measured? What is it worth in terms of better performance and profitability?

  • How does culture matter in fostering innovation in times of adversity and when we create organizations, perhaps multinational, with different subcultures?

  • Of what special significance is culture in mission-driven organizations, both for-profit and not-for-profit?

  • Going forward, how will the rate of change in the environ-ment—influenced by such things as new communication technologies, global competition (and cooperation), and the influx of new generations of people with different interests and values into the workforce—affect the role of culture in organizations?

  • What leadership behaviors and management practices are most essential in fostering, preserving, and, in some cases, reviving successful cultures?

To explore these questions, I first examined a variety of secondary sources as well as my own library of field observations. Many of them were documented in forty years worth of cases prepared with the cooperation of the managements of both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. This provided the basis for two conceptual frameworks for measuring the quantitative and qualitative importance of an effective culture: the Four Rs and the culture cycle. They are described and applied in Chapters 5 through 7.

I was then fortunate to find an organization whose management was willing to provide an unusual level of cooperation in the data collection and analysis needed to test the Four R conceptual framework. That work is described in some detail in Chapter 7 and Appendixes B and C.

In total, the research for the book uses a variety of quantitative and other data, including interviews with leaders of a number of organizations collected over two decades. This research helped me assemble an argument for the importance of an effective culture, and ways to measure it using elements of the culture cycle, in an organization's success.

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