This is Not Set in Stone

Sitting in the lobby waiting to be greeted by the company’s chief human resources officer, I took in the decor. Workspace design is often the first clue to an organization’s mission. This particular organization was the parent company for over a dozen global businesses. Each business logo was proudly displayed on a sign attached to a post embedded deeply into a massive foundation of granite. The message was clear.

The discussion of our future partnership arose from a conversation of the evolution of culture. Because the historical growth of this company was driven by mergers and acquisitions, they were continuously challenged by blending missions, values, and visions. Often, there was common ground. Sometimes, however, there was significant disparity in organizational philosophy despite the wisdom and business sense of the acquisition. Either way, blending differences and managing change was woven into the fabric of the corporate culture.

Further exchange revealed the secret sauce of their success. Their growth was made possible by ongoing strategic decisions about whether to invest or divest. Selling a company often had greater advantage than buying one. On any given day, an associate of this organization could learn that they were hereby either now employed by this company or hereby no longer employed by this company. The business logos that filled the signs embedded deeply in the granite foundation were easily interchangeable.

The granite foundation, however, never moves. Sign posts move in and out as strategic business decisions are executed from year to year. The overall philosophy, mission, values, and vision of the organization, however, remain anchored and stable. When changes occur, whether expected or unexpected, everyone rests upon the strength of the foundation that, for decades, has guaranteed the sustainability of the business. While everything always changes, some things don’t.

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