Blogs » J.Q. Tomanek of Victoria » Business as unusual


There are some adages that have always struck a chord with me. I have found some true like "Don't judge a book by its cover." Another good one is "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." Thirdly, "All that glitters is not gold," which I guess is similar to the first one. There are also some sayings that I have found are a little off. For instance, "It isn't personal, it's just business." Unfortunately, due to a rampant culture of mistrust due to many negative things like greed and lust for power, this would be "Business as usual."

In Bo Burlingham's "Small Giants," he devotes an entire chapter to “Culture of Intimacy” that creates a workplace that many actually enjoy going to work. Some of these are employees; some are in a sense co-owners that work for a company with an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). Creating a corporate culture is very easy because it happens regardless if it is intended or not. For example, a company may not try to establish any particular culture, thereby approving by default a type of laissez-faire culture. The difficult part is changing the culture, as Edgar Schein, an MIT School of Management professor has noted. There is an entire field of organizational practice that can be researched and applied. Practitioners of these fields are found in management or leadership schools at universities, consulting companies, and even within many large companies with departments like Organizational Development, Organizational Change, Training and Development, etc.

Burlingham offers a particular example of the companies that seek to offer a very personable workplace. Herb Kelleher, co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines, built his company around the principle of “caring for people in the totality of their lives.” The corporate workplace culture spins throughout the company in what Peter Senge called Systems Thinking. Senge’s work shows how a corporate practice can affect many parts of the organization. This can be positive or negative. For instance, with Kelleher’s practice of treating the totality of the lives of his employees, it would create a system that the employees then shared with the customers.

This sense of intimacy is one of the common threads that Burlingham has found in these companies that have chosen to remain small. What experiences have you had in your career that has shown the company really cares for you? Do you think working for a company that treats business as personal will have longer retention and a happier employee? Will this affect production? Sales? Customer service?