Allan Kennedy and Terry Deal were among the first to define life inside the American company, calling it corporate culture and explaining how the day to day lives of people while they do their jobs has a profound affect on profit and productivity. The authors have an update, illustrating how the massive changes in businessfrom technology to mergers, reengineering to a ferocious push on management to keep stock prices highhave changed the lives of employees over the past 15 years. Not since the Industrial Revolution has the American worker experienced such a revision in both the way the company operates and the way the job gets done. The New Corporate Cultures: Revitalizing the Workplace After Downsizing, Mergers and Reengineering (Perseus Books) looks at this momentous shift and offers managers a guidebook to rebuilding the workforce, so badly damaged by the change.
Using examples from Southwest Airlines to Walmart, Sara Lee to Hewlett Packard, the book draws from the wide range of industries to gage the impact of management trends. In the turbulence of the past 15 years, write Deal and Kennedy, very few companies have managed to maintain their traditional ways. Indeed, downsizing and mergers, acquisitions and outsourcing have put company loyalty and trust at an all time low.
The New Corporate Cultures examines the changes, shoots down the myths of corporate cultures, and looks at what the shifts in the business environment have done to the people who keep the company going. People matter in business. And culture plays a dominant role in creating the glue that holds people together, giving their efforts focus and meaning. The book cites several major studies that support the notion that companies with a robust corporate culture enjoy greater profitability. To work it’s magic, however, a company’s culture must be aligned with the demands of the business environment.
Deal and Kennedy look closely at corporate life since 1982, identifying the major trends that have affected managers and workers. They are:
- The Rise of Shareholder Value and Short-Term management.
- Downsizing and Reengineering
- Merger Mania
- Computers and Cultural Isolation
Virtually all of the cost cutting undertaken by companies has seriously weakened their corporate cultures. Since these efforts target people as a way to bring costs into line, it wreaks havoc on the victims. It also affects survivors who are left to ponder their own fates. Workers, overall, can no longer trust the company to maintain their salaries, their benefits, or even their jobs.
Deal and Kennedy don’t end with the bad news, but instead begin to define the next steps for American business. They charge management with exercising cultural leadership to rebuild the social context of the workplace, to create an environment for the American tradition of progress to continue. They offer specific suggestions for rebuilding cohesion in fragmented work cultures, creating a sense of fun and purpose in the workplace and striving again for the superior performance strong culture companies have always produced.
The New Corporate Cultures predicts the current cycle of destructive management techniques is about to end and puts forth that the information age and the recognition of knowledge as a key corporate asset will set the stage for a workplace revival. The prize, write Kennedy and Deal, is there for the taking if anyone is bold enough to grab it.