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Chris Witt

This is a great post. As a consultant I'm always walking into new companies, new cultures. And sometimes it takes me a while to get my bearings. I'll have to give it more thought, but I think I function most easily in a work-hard/play-hard culture. But most of my client companies are bet-your-company or process cultures.

Thanks for spelling this out so well.

Wally Bock

Great post, Steve. Among the academics, I like Hofstede because his system works across borders. But my favorite definition is the old Deal and Kennedy one from years ago. They defined culture as "the way we do things around here."

Hayli @ Rise Smart

Great post, Steve. I'm curious as to your thoughts on whether one person can change the culture of an organization. Or what is it that causes a culture to change? As for one person, it probably depends on the size of the organization and the ranking of the individual, right?

Steve Roesler


This has a great deal of application when you are working with the "presentation" clients. I recall very, very early on when I was working with a company on their presentation skills that someone said, "We just can't do that here." (The "what" had to do with graphics. They were doing the typical "shine the spreadsheet on the screen" thing). At first it made no sense because the company was paying me a darned good fee to build communication/presentation effectiveness.

You know what? The fellow was right. I went to the sponsoring client, explained what it was we were wanting to change and why it was 'better', and he said, "Don't bother. We don't care, we want it done this way, and that's something we simply don't want to change."

Presentation and influence coaching and consulting has always been the favorite and largest part of our business. I had to learn that even what was proven, tried, and true sometimes isn't welcome in a culture that simply doesn't value it--regardless of it's effectiveness.

Steve Roesler


That is the question for the ages. I'll do my best to share related experiences to try and get at a reasonable answer.

1. I've consulted to CEOs some of whom, seemingly alone, brought about massive change. They were totally directive, knew what needed to be done, and created change by creating non-negotiable goals and milestones for achievement. They also introduced new methods for doing business in which everyone was trained. After a very brief period of time, those who were "on board" stayed on board. Those who "couldn't" or "wouldn't" received a severance package.

2. It is obviously easier for a CEO to wield the kind of influence that makes it possible for massive change. However, I have worked with Executive VP's who were so very clear about what they wanted to change and how, that they were successful in changing the culture of their departments. I saw it happen once in an Engineering department of 400 people and again in a manufacturing organization of approximately 600.

3. What causes a culture to change is that people:

a. See a great personal benefit in making the changes

b. See the potential for pain and loss if they don't change.

I have never seen any organization change simply because someone in authority convinced everyone it was "good for the company." That doesn't mean the people didn't care about the company. The ultimate issue is: What is good or bad for me and my family.

Thanks for that one, Hayli

Steve Roesler


Well, this is another area where we fall into the same camp.

I like Deal and Kennedy for the simplicity and straight talk of their definition. And, having spent the bulk of my career outside of the U.S., Hofstede's work simply rings true no matter where I found myself.


I like this post. I think it is a great idea to get a feel for your companies work environment and so you feel apart of it.

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