Recognise This! – Companies succeed or fail based on the efforts, contributions and values of their people.

Setting aside the current battle in the US over the legal ramifications of “corporate personhood,” fundamentally, companies are people. I liked how Shawn Parr spoke to this in a recent Fast Company article within a more detailed discussion of corporate culture:

“Companies are not linear, inert systems. They are ever-changing, organic communities that are dependent on the engagement, talent, and energy of their people to operate successfully. Ignore the mental well-being of your people and culture at your own peril. Step inside any company, no matter the size, stage of development, or level of success, and the culture is either driving the strategy or undermining it. To exist in the first place, a company must have a clear purpose, a deliberate intent, and a set of ideas that it uses to pursue a clear goal–but it’s the people who have to execute it.

“There is abundant evidence in every industry that the best-laid plans (or strategies) are derailed, suffocated, or eaten by cultures that either don’t understand or straight-out reject the intent. And this, in turn, slows, sucks the life out of, or sabotages the execution of the company’s strategy.”

It’s hard for many to think of corporations as anything but avenues of business – a means to make a profit. But without the people in the corporation, those profits cannot be made. For the last 200 years, arguments have been waged over industrialisation and replacing the “human factor” with machines that can do the work better, faster or more efficiently.

But in the last 200 years, we’ve only seen business evolve to better utilize humans for what they uniquely bring – the “knowledge workers” and their creativity, inspiration and insight.

It’s those people – with all their idiosyncrasies and expectations – that make a company successful. As the Mr. Parr points, out the best of strategies can be hopelessly scuttled by people who aren’t bought into the reasons to execute the strategy and the cultural mores (your core values) by which you want to achieve that strategy.

Have you worked in an organisation in which a poor culture destroyed an excellent strategy? What were the hallmarks of that negative culture?