Is your corporate culture keeping you from a breakthrough?

by Shideh Sedgh Bina Read more from the Enterprise-wide Transformation issue
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I’m sure you’ve heard of Gorilla® Glass. It’s probably on the front of your smartphone, and its strength has saved you from a broken phone more than once.

But it’s not just you and your smartphone that Gorilla® Glass has saved. It also saved Corning Inc. The breakthrough product is the result of a cultural transformation at the specialty glass and ceramics maker.

For Peter Volanakis, Corning’s former COO, saving Corning was all about having the right culture in place. It was a culture that allowed a product like Gorilla® Glass to lose money for 14 years before it found its way onto more than 100 million mobile devices. Inside this issue of Insigniam Quarterly, he shares the value of a company’s culture in transformative environments and offers his three keys to transforming culture.

While the Corning story is definitely instructional and inspirational, it’s far from unique. In our decades as international consultants, we’ve seen it time and time again. A company wants a breakthrough transformation. It wants to grow, but it can’t. Its culture is holding it back.

Throughout this issue, we talk about transformations, both big and small, from Delta Airlines buying its own oil refinery to control fuel costs to the keys to a successful merger. And at the center of each of these transformations is culture. Culture is the very core of how the people in an organization think, perceive opportunities, and behave, and it either supports a transformation initiative or culture stifles it.

As the saying goes, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” It doesn’t matter how well thought out your plans are; if all the elements of your people are not on the same page with your strategic needs, then your initiative will be for naught.

Consider the company featured on our cover, Danone. For the French food products multinational, the culture change included a whole new leadership approach, adapting its culture to emerging markets and listening to its customers. Listening not in the cliché way that we all say we listen to customers. Danone is actually bringing them into the R and D process.

That was a bold step, but it was necessary if Danone wanted to be a global player.

It’s time for a hard look at where you want to be and to ask yourself if it’s your corporate culture that’s preventing your breakthrough transformation from taking flight.

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Shideh Sedgh Bina
TAGS: Summer 2013

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