Culture & Values | Is the Boardroom or COY Floor in Control?

29 September 2017

What does it take to truly capture a desired cultural undertone that is congruent to the values of both Board and Staff? Who decides what is deemed acceptable? What lens do they hold? Will it be valued?

The culture and values of an Organisation could be thought of as its “personality”, it is the unconscious espousal of shared norms and core beliefs that shape the many types of individual behaviours and more broadly, the Organisation’s view of itself.

Both new and existing Staff often want to know about the hidden beliefs of a Corporation that simply cannot be curtailed within a Careers Section or Job Description. Staff often ask, what is the appropriate behaviour to specific or wider cohorts and what happens to non-conformists?

Inevitably, Staff broaden their focus to the hard, key performance numbers and want to know more about the Organisation’s mission. Effectively framing an impact or purpose to that mission is the magic to a sustainable, competitive edge that will ultimately deliver strategic objectives in an effortless spirit.

A Well Heeded Challenge

“Culture eats strategy for lunch. You can have a good strategy in place, but if you don’t have the culture and the enabling systems to implement that strategy … the culture of the organization will always defeat the strategy.” Richard Clark, CEO of Merck & Co

“There are only two things about culture change that you need to know. The first is that it is much harder than you think, and the second is that it takes forever”. Michael Chaney, UNSW Meet the CEO series, 2

A Shared Arena

As always with culture and values, the Board as both collective and as individual members have leading roles to play in promoting a desired culture to the benefit of stakeholders. The Board is the leading light and voice to not only the expected standards of the Company, but also sets a high watermark of competency to expected sophistication of idea examination and reconciliation.

This notion is important given the typical term of a Director can be between 5-10 years and CEO tenure closer to 2-5 years. As a result, more emphasis may be given to the Board as the true influence of culture and ethics over the Organisation. Thus with correct retention of Board talent, an anchor is found to the guardian of long-term values. Perhaps this is best analogised by a Chinese phrasing, “the fish rots from the head”.

As exampled by the Australian Institute of Company Directors, every member of the Institute is expected to comply with a ‘Code of Conduct’ as determined by the Institute’s Board of Directors. One area of particular focus has been to put in place arrangements aimed at having potential conflicts that do arise, dealt with appropriately, including policies and procedures concerning the identification, declaration and management of conflicts.

This behavioural, ‘second-nature’ element of culture and values is perhaps the underlying problem to a successful mission of an Organisation. The parameters to what is the Company or Organisation ‘norm’ can be too vague, misinterpreted or not even articulated. It is important for all Staff to have a level of confidence in knowing what to do and how to ‘handle’ themselves to both particular and fluid scenarios.

Furthermore, as outlined by the below ‘Clan’ and ‘Adhocracy’ Cultural framework, it is important for employees to own the compass of the Organisation’s ethos, be empowered with certain decisions and have adequate rewards for fostering values. Even the thinnest thread of commonality between Boardroom and COY Floor is essential to develop a ‘constructive’ willingness to serve the Organisation as opposed to ‘aggressive’ implementations that may inadvertently be perceived as perfectionism or opposition.

Staff, Stakeholders and other Participants need to be mindful of relationship dynamics and rise-above the ‘noise’ or obstacles that do not promote behaviours aligned to delivery of Company’s purpose. There are many methods to instigating, capturing, reinforcing and achieving desired values which will more often than not be found in a ‘Code of Conduct’ document. As stated, this is not a straight-forward process and thus, empirical pi has outlined a number of frameworks that can ensure your Company or Organisation’s mission is relevant, durable and cost effective.

Culture and Values Considerations of Top Talent

Team Values
  • Engages with Community
  • Team is Diverse
  • Continuous Feedback
  • Impressive Team Members
  • Bonded by Love for Product
  • Creative + Innovative
  • Cross-Department Collaboration
  • Open Communication
  • EQ > IQ
  • Flat Organization
  • Risk-Taking > Stability
  • Wears many Hats
  • Heavily Team Oriented
Personal Health
  • Actively practices Inclusion
  • Work/Life Balance
  • Committed to Personal Growth
  • Ideal for Parents
  • Safe Environment to Fail
  • Supports Physical Wellness
  • Fosters Psychological Safety
Daily Routines


  • Eats Lunch Together
  • Flexible Work Arrangements
  • Light Meetings
  • Friends Outside of Work
  • Has Good Beer
  • Thoughtful Office Layout
  • High Quality Code Base
  • Pair Programs
  • Open Source Contributor
  • Start-to-Finish Ownership
  • Uses Agile Methodologies
  • Cutting-Edge Technologies
  • Fast-Paced Environment
  • Continuous Delivery
Career Growth
  • Promotes from Within
  • Internal Mobility
  • Good for Junior Developers / Analysts
  • Has Internship Program
  • High Employee Retention
  • Customer Comes First
  • Engineering-Driven
  • Product-Driven
  • Design-Driven
  • Data-Driven
  • Rapidly Growing Team
Company Properties
  • B2B
  • B2C
  • Self-Funded
  • Technical Founder(s)
  • For Profit / Social Impact / B-Corp / Non-For-Profit
  • Remote Working

The Cultural Web

The Competing Values Framework

Flexibility, Individuality, Spontaneity

Internal Maintenance

Clan Culture

  • Attributes: Cohesiveness, participation, sense of family
  • Leadership: Mentor, facilitator, parent-figure
  • Bonding: Loyalty, tradition, interpersonal cohesion
  • Emphasis: Developing people, commitment, morale
Adhocracy Culture

  • Attributes: Creativity, entrepreneurship, dynamism
  • Leadership: Entrepreneur, innovator, risk-taker
  • Bonding: Entrepreneurship, flexibility, risk-taking
  • Emphasis: Innovation, growth, new resources

External Positioning

Hierarchy Culture

  • Attributes: Order, rules and regulation, uniformity, efficiency
  • Leadership: Coordinator, organizer, administrator
  • Bonding: Rules, policies and procedures, clear expectations
  • Emphasis: Stability, predictability, smooth operations
Market Culture

  • Attributes: Competitiveness, goal achievement
  • Leadership: Decisive, task-, and achievement-oriented
  • Bonding: Goal orientation, production/service delivery
  • Emphasis: Competitive advantage, market superiority

Control, Order, Stability

A positive culture is not just the responsibility of key central Board Members or Company Executive, it rests in all Staff and Stakeholders to develop skills in influence and diffusion in order to align values. Creativity is always needed to bring together disparate opinions and views on matters and draw them into the open both tactfully and explicitly.

It is in the Foundations of empirical pi to embrace all Boards, Clients and counter-part Executive with humility, curiosity and respectful listening. We appreciate your courage to acknowledge challenges and confidence to work with us candidly to overcome complex scenarios.

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