Corporate character

Professor Alan Wilkins published a book called Developing Corporate Character: How to Successfully Change an Organization Without Destroying it

In it he asserts that organizations with strong character more easily:

  • Develop new skills
  • Achieve successful futures

Wilkins argues that an organization that doesn’t have strong corporate character, may sacrifices values or strengths to achieve short-term successes at the expense of longer-term successes. 

Professor Wilkins was one of my favorite Business School professors. Educated at Stanford by one of the original Culture gurus, Wilkins taught (1) ways to determine how culturally ready an organization is for change, as well as (2) strategies used to develop new skills and successes. Wilkins is a big advocate of “honoring the past,” the values and successes that have enabled an organization’s current reality.

Wilkins strategies for successful change include the following:

  1. Preserving motivational faith in fairness
  2. Preserving motivational faith in ability
  3. Preserving (and developing) a shared vision and mission

Faith in Fairness

Faith in fairness includes this simplification: organizations should keep their past commitments, so that anticipated future commitments can be trusted. The concept is that as individuals feel fairness, the organization collectively can.

Faith in Ability

Faith in ability includes (1) not doing things to lose needed organizational skills, while (2) doing things that grow them. And importantly, managing individual perceptions of this, so that their motivation in the organization’s abilities can be managed. And again, what works for all individuals translates collectively into an organizational culture of motivation.

Shared Vision

A shared vision (or mission) is one that is motivating to all within the organization. A shared vision is communicated both to individuals and to teams of individuals. And in the process it is implemented and takes on additional importance and meaning by individuals and teams within the organization.