European corporate cultures challenged by a new world
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European corporate cultures challenged by a new world

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Talking about culture in France... Art, literature, theater and the like immediately come to mind, without really lingering over the fundamental role culture plays as a constituent element of the societal link. Schools, families and the army can only exist because their cultures define and underpin their organization. Businesses are no exception to this iron law, and a lot of failures took place because it was neglected.
Corporate culture isn’t simply the story of a creation or of technological or commercial quests but a complex and dense collection of knowledge, behaviors and human relations whereby the company is able to exist, survive, move forward, and establish an intangible heritage of strategic importance.
Assessing the challenges of a new world, technological changes such as the digital revolution or sociological disruptions such as the rise of women in businesses, European HR Directors are trying to pinpoint the resources of corporate cultures and to extract, at a time of globalization, a common that can transcend national cultures. It is because Europe’s culture – rich and plentiful – reflects on businesses that understanding it, however difficult it may be, is essential to bring about a generation of combative companies that can tackle global challenges, accept their societal responsibilities and enrich, in every way, the men and women that work in them.
Under the guidance of Yves Barou, entrepreneurs, administrators, strategists, philosophers, researchers, and teachers gathers to outline a subtle and constructive approach to corporate cultures.


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Published 20 November 2017
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EAN13 9782917088449
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Talking about culture in France… Art, literature, theater and the like immediately come to mind, without really lingering over the fundamental role culture plays as a constituent element of the societal link. Schools, families and the army can only exist because their cultures define and underpin their organization. Businesses are no exception to this iron law, and a lot of failures took place because it was neglected. Corporate culture isn’t simply the story of a creation or of technological or commercial quests but a complex and dense collection of knowledge, behaviors and human relations whereby the company is able to exist, survive, move forward, and establish an intangible heritage of strategic importance. Assessing the challenges of a new world, technological changes such as the digital revolution or sociological disruptions such as the rise of women in businesses, European HR Directors are trying to pinpoint the resources of corporate cultures and to extract, at a time of globalization, a common that can transcend national cultures. It is because Europe’s culture – rich and plentiful – reflects on businesses that understanding it, however difficult it may be, is essential to bring about a generation of combative companies that can tackle global challenges, accept their societal responsibilities and enrich, in every way, the men and women that work in them. Under the guidance of Yves Barou, entrepreneurs, administrators, strategists, philosophers, researchers, and teachers gathers to outline a subtle and constructive approach to corporate cultures.
© Éditions des Ilots de résistance, 2017
ISBN: 978-2-917088-44-9
www.ilotsderesistance.fr
Ce document numérique a été réalisé parNord Compo.
INTRODUCTION
Corporate cultures, competitiveness and social responsibility By Yves Barou
Should corporate cultures, with their four-color brochures and self-proclaimed values, be trusted? Culture is the learned element of human behavior, with “primary” cultural institutions such as the family, schools, the army, youth movements…, and “secondary” institutions such as relig ion, vocational training , political and societal commitments or even businesses, even if they are oen forg otten – althoug h they are among the most resilient institutions. Culture is the foundation of the entire symbolism of a society. It reflects its hopes and its contradictions. Speaking of corporate culture, let us $rst clear up an ambig uity. Each social g roup has its culture, and businesses are no exception. Corporate culture isn’t just the manag ement’s culture, the culture it strives to promote – sometimes awkwardly. It is the composite of cultures, its teams, its subsidiaries, its trades. ree years ag o, we discussed the formation of human capital, human heritag e. We analyzed the way the company’s frame is formed and maintained as a “formed body” made up of skills, human 1 capitals, symbols and practices . is set of practices and references, which has its own history, is much more complicated than a statement of a few values and is inherently plural. us, we worked on what is permanent in a company, the reason why, throug h different teams, employees, manag ers, market evolutions – which all lasting companies have to face in their life –, something remains that makes the company what it is, something that lasts on its own. A company’s ability to mobilize its culture to face the challeng e of new jobs thus becomes a key element of its success. Beyond the question of an existing market comes the more fundamental question of the balance between culture and strateg ic needs. I could mention all the businesses that refused to diversify on the g rounds that their culture wasn’t conducive to chang e, or even France Telecom, which faced problems in the face of a necessary transformation. I could also talk about Bouyg ues Group which, even in the telephony teams, has retained something of its construction culture in its manag ement and operations. is culture is even transmitted to employees coming from other professional cultures. is can explain some failures when, sometimes, the de$ned strateg y doesn’t match the company’s true culture or when a newly-appointed manag er tries – in vain – to break a company’s culture (for instance Thales Group’s roaming years). Sometimes, on the contrary, manag ers are able to properly assess it. Working with the leader of a medium-sized metal company, I was shocked when he refused a diversi$cation project even thoug h there was a market and the opportunity, just because it didn’t match the company’s culture. What a wise and all too rare decision!
De$ning this corporate cultural heritag e thus implies understanding the way it is passed on. Indeed, certain behaviors are accepted by the socia l body of a company but would be absolutely impossible in another, with its own professional rituals (e.g . the manag ement of meeting s or dialog ue spaces), the relation to g oals, the link between power and responsibility, which can be more or less separated… It can also be seen in very personal areas: the lang uag e and vocabulary used, the use of acronyms and special professional jarg on, obscure writing , tacitly induced dress codes, the relation to time and punctuality. All these thing s come under the jurisdiction of sociolog ists. At $rst, we will have to think about the dimension of these national or international cultures, about how to create something that is shared but not iden tical. At a time of rising nationalism and the emphasis of national cultures, are companies still a place for g lobalization – consistent if not happy? Should we head towards a multi-domestic system, as businesses such as ales, BIC and many others are trying to do? BIC’s case is an interesting one because althoug h the reference – one mig ht even say the cult – to simplicity is a common value, decentralization is such that people in Brazil believe it to be a Brazilian company, people in the US an American company, people in France a French company, and so on. is culture obviously refers to the deg ree of consistency and diversi$cation, the shared nature of technolog y, the existence of g lobal products, and the nature of business – B2B or B2C. Secondly, we will have to examine the new challeng es corporate cultures are facing : dig ital 2 transformation, of course – our theme last year – as well as the consequences the energ y transition or sociolog ical chang es have on businesses, e.g . women’s increasing inuence or the different ambitions of a new g eneration. More g enerally speaking , society is inviting itself in businesses and bring ing its contradictions along with it – arrival of relig ion(s) or cultural claims in businesses, denial of g lobalization, deemed inhumane, loss of trust in the elites… is way, businesses are tossed around but these cha lleng es can g ive rise to a positive reaction: the company can become one of the primary places where new practices are invented, with a capacity – linked to the need to think g lobal, which many other institutions have lost – to come up, in the face of common challeng es, with common – if not universal – answers. Indeed, to shape a community, nothing is better than to meet new, common challeng es tog ether. is is actually one of the contradictions of the return of nationalism: everyone is shutting away to solve problems that are similar to their neig hbors’! Finally, we will address the issue of how; how to create and develop a corporate culture, with its rituals and its symbols, calendars and processes, manag erial references, symbolic places, methods of recog nition, lang uag es, and so on. Culture has become a key theme, so much so that it is now part of CSR references, for instance at Amundi, rig ht along side social or environmental issues. 3 Corporate social responsibility, one of the markers of the European social model , is therefore becoming a required step for businesses to g et away from their framework and take responsibility for the consequences their actions have on society throug hout the value chain, on their environment or even on the g lobal ecosystem. To measure the way ahead and the potential streng th of corporate cultures, a journey throug h other cultures and throug h an artistic approach is necessary to broaden our horizon. Europe’s competitiveness is at stake: can Europe once ag ain become, via its vision of businesses and the strong cultures that have taken root in them, a model? Can Europe once ag ain be attractive
in a g lobalized world? Can it offer strong commons that replace the triumphant universalism of the post-war boom?
1e and competitiveness, Yves Barou and the European HRD Circle,. Corporate human heritag Ilots de résistance, 2014. 2. European-hrd-circle.org 3.e European Social Model, Yves Barou and the European HRD Circle, Ilots de résistance, 2013.
CHAPTER 1 TRICK WORDS AND KEY CONCEPTS