Corporate Culture

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Would You Wear Red Sneakers to Work? Should You?

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Being a little quirky in clothing choices leads to positive inferences of status, confidence and competence — when observers think the choices are made with deliberateness. From a psychological standpoint, intentional deviance can signal that one has the autonomy to act according to one’s own inclinations, write the authors, who are all affiliated with Harvard Business School. On the other hand, nonconformists do risk not having a comfort zone and “the benefits of following the crowd.”

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Innovation Lessons From China

China is becoming the best place to learn how to make ideas commercially viable, even as many multinational companies are growing increasingly wary of doing business there because of concerns about unfair competition and theft of intellectual property. Chinese companies excel at cost reduction, accelerated product development and networked production — and know how to assess what they can do and quickly find partners to fill the gaps.

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What to Expect From a Corporate Lean Program

“Lean” programs help many manufacturers boost productivity. But misplaced expectations of how quickly these programs can improve performance can make their implementation difficult. Better understanding of the rates at which lean programs produce improvements would make implementation go more smoothly — and lead to more increases in productivity. Managers should set targets that are appropriate to specific plants and be careful not to derail progress by using initial gains to lay off workers.

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A New, Analytics-Based Era of Banking Dawns at State Street

Change does not come easy to established institutions, particularly when they count their longevity in centuries rather than decades. Yet in the wake of the global financial crisis, State Street Bank has elected to revamp 200+ years (and counting) of banking practices in favor of a data-driven, analytics-based business model. In doing so, it created a new business, SSGX — and initiated significant cultural changes.

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The Pitfalls of Project Status Reporting

Accepting five inconvenient truths about project status reporting can greatly reduce the chance of being blindsided by unpleasant surprises. For instance, many employees tend to put a positive spin on anything they report to senior management. And when employees do report bad news, senior executives often ignore it. Overconfidence is an occupational hazard in the executive suite, and executives need to examine their own assumptions and beliefs about project status reporting.

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Social Business: Flat or Hierarchical? A Surprising Answer

The most effective social businesses of the future may start to look more like organizations that long predate modern corporations — so-called “loosely coupled” organizations such as military, education and religious institutions. These organizations remain deeply hierarchical, argues Gerald C. Kane, but these hierarchies operate differently than modern corporations, pushing decision-making capabilities down to people who can better deal with conditions on the ground.

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Five Steps To Leading Change Successfully

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Before making a change, you need to identify the influencers who can push the project forward — or who can cause it to stall. “Left unattended, skepticism, fear and panic can wreak havoc on any change process,” write Ellen R. Auster and Trish Ruebottom.

Their solution is a five-step, proactive process designed to help leaders navigate both the politics and the emotions that are churned up by heading in new directions. The steps include mapping the key stakeholders who will be affected by the change and involving the most influential of them.

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How Innovative Is Your Company’s Culture?

Everyone wants an innovative corporate culture, but how do you develop one? This article posits that the ability of a culture to support innovation depends on six key building blocks: values, behaviors, climate, resources, processes and success. The article also includes a 54-element test developed to enable managers to assess a company’s “Innovation Quotient.” A case study in the article outlines the experience of a Latin American company with the assessment tool.

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Reinventing Employee Onboarding

Wipro BPO, a business process outsourcing firm in Bangalore, India, was experiencing high turnover rates. In Wipro’s traditional onboarding program, new employees learned about the company. But when the onboarding focused, instead, on individual identity, employees were more than 32% less likely to quit their jobs during the first six months. The bottom line: By making small investments in socialization practices, companies can improve employee retention.

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The Inside and Outside View of Innovation

How can companies ensure that a promising initiative receives the necessary resources? And why do so many brilliant inventions fail while other seemingly mediocre offerings succeed? Such questions are addressed in two recent books — Unrelenting Innovation: How to Build a Culture for Market Dominance by Gerard J. Tellis and The Wide Lens: A New Strategy for Innovation by Ron Adner. The first book concentrates on a company’s internal workings, while the latter focuses on its external environment.

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What Managers Really Think About Social Business

Given that technology-based social networking has been transforming social norms for the past decade, will social networking and social software have a similarly transformative effect on business? Are they already doing so? How are enterprises benefiting? MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte asked thousands of managers about how their companies are using social media tools — and how important those tools are becoming to their organizations. Here’s what they said.

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How to Become a Sustainable Company

Trends suggest that the public is no longer satisfied with corporations that focus solely on short-term profits. A recent study comparing companies that adopted environmental and social policies with companies that didn’t supports this view. However, few companies are born with a commitment to sustainability. To develop one, companies need leadership commitment, an ability to engage with multiple stakeholders along the value chain, employee engagement and disciplined mechanisms for execution.

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Uncommon Sense: How to Turn Distinctive Beliefs Into Action

Most strategy making begins in the wrong place. Many companies rely on frameworks and models from the strategist’s toolbox, including industry analysis, market segmentation, benchmarking and outsourcing. As a result, they short-circuit the real work of strategy and miss out on finding new insights into the preferences or behaviors of current or potential customers. Few companies develop original strategies by formulating hypotheses and then testing them in a competitive setting.

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IKEA: Hiring on Values As Well as Skills

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Instead of looking just at job-related skills and experience when deciding who to hire, culture-focused companies such as IKEA “expanded their selection criteria to include cultural fit,” assessing applicants’ personalities and values, according to new research.

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The 2011 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize

The editors of MIT Sloan Management Review are pleased to announce the winner of this year’s Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize, awarded to the author of the most outstanding SMR article on planned change and organizational development published from fall 2009 to summer 2010.

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