I have consulted for many different companies, owned several businesses across a wide variety of industries, and worked on several different trading floors. My experience has taught me that there is no right or wrong type of culture, but there must be a clear culture in place for departments and businesses to achieve long term success (yes it is true that even the dumbest person in the world can get lucky from time to time, but timing and luck are two totally different things from long-term success).
It is true for all businesses, whether it is a fast-food restaurant, a car dealer, or a widget factory. For a business to be successful there has to be a common culture that is present in the company. Why is it that so many mergers and acquisitions do not stack up to their advertised results? … It is all about the culture. Cultures take years to develop and days to destroy. Though a culture can be destroyed in a day they cannot be improved overnight. It is not just ownership changes where culture changes cause failure, but management changes as well. Culture is about people — their behavior and beliefs — and if the culture of the business does not match that of the employees, or the culture of the employees does not match that of management or the business, it will fail.
Look at trading floors. There are floors that are cut-throat, win-at-all-costs, and then there are floors that have more of a family atmosphere with department, not just individual goals. Does one culture make more or less money than the other?…not really, they can both be incredibly successfully, but they will require a different personality and skillset of employees. When used and properly motivated, both will flourish in the correct setting. The common key to the success of any business is that the culture has a known identity and the employees are connected to that identity. A cut-throat trader that feeds off energy is not going to do well in a laid-back position, and a laid-back person is not going to do well in a win-at-all-cost position. If there is no culture in place how will employees know if they will be successful and how will employers know if employees will be successful?
I do not have the magic solution. I have come to a conclusion that there is no right or wrong answer to what is the “correct” culture or motivation theory. What I have found is that there has to be a strong culture in place that supports management and the motivation and theory of management. It has been my experience that the only guaranteed failure of management is to have no direction and no culture, which in and of itself can be a much worse problem than having the “wrong” culture.