Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Corporate Cultures

There has been quite a bit of discussion this week in other blogs (In the Pipeline, The Chemjobber) about the new "Lab of the Future" as designed by Novartis. Obviously there is a strong angle in the discussions towards pharma, but all R & D organizations face the same challenges: how do you get people to work together effectively.

Working at Aspen Research, I've been fortunate to gain access to dozens of different companies, all with different floor plans and building architectures and meeting rooms and... I have not seen that the physical structures matter at all.

As much as I hate starting up buzzword bingo, to me the stronger signs of success are corporate culture. Within about an hour, you can tell which companies are going to succeed and which aren't. And that usually carries over into the project that we are working on. I've had clients where I know that the work I'm doing will just be lost or poorly implemented and others were I knew it was going to be a great success.

I would be rich, extremely rich if I could tell you why the differences exist and what to change. (If it was easy, some business prof would have done it already.) However, some of the common threads I see in good businesses are:
  • Intelligent people. This can be broken into two subsets:
    • They have areas of expertise and know what they are
    • They also know what areas are not their expertise, they recognize this and publicly acknowledge this
  • Management that may or may not be present, but certainly show restraint in their involvement
  • Clear definition of both what the problem is, and what a successful resolution would be (Scope creep in a project a great warning sign)
  • Open communication:
    • Bad news can be spoken about
    • Politics are very limited below the management levels
That's what's there off the top of my head. Again, no revolutionary ideas here.

Just so that I don't fall into the trap that I just accused others of, note that this is descriptive, not prescriptive. The real question is if a company doesn't have this culture, can it be made to have one? And how can it be done? I have no idea.

1 comment:

Chemjobber said...

Couldn't have said it better myself, John.