Corporate Culture versus Corporate Vision

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In many books that line the shelves today, we see many business titles advising (potential) employees on the ways to adapt to the workplace.

One most commonly-used term is “corporate vision”. And one common technique that is often suggested is to align ourselves to the corporate vision of organisations. When we do this, we will then be able to work as a team since we are moving in a single direction (while being regarded as a great team player at the same time). This is all well and fine but interesting, a more impactful and determining factor often gets left out in the process: corporate culture. Not many reasons have been given to explain the term’s absence from most books relating to adapting to the workplace but I believe that much can be attributed to the fact that corporate vision is very prominent and its emphasis is high in the workplace while corporate culture is something that is not often highlighted or spoken about. Some of us might even regard corporate culture as a set of “unwritten rules”.

However, if we were to examine employees in organisations, it’s not hard to observe that most employees leave organisations due to their inability to adapt themselves to the corporate culture (more than the corporate vision) and/or their incompatibility with the working style of their  (immediate) superiors (which – to a certain degree- contributes to the corporate culture of the organisation as well). Hence, it can be observed that tackling the issues of  corporate culture (which often changes with the change in management) is more crucial and imminent than handling corporate vision (which is likely to stay the same for a longer period of time and which most of us usually agree with). But coping with the corporate culture of an organisation often proves to be tricky because it is usually unspoken and it comes in many forms, from the ways that employees handle tasks to the “official/unofficial” hierarchical structure of individual departments to the employees’ preferred dress codes and many more. It usually takes a substantial amount of time for a new employee to get used to the workplace, and this situation is made worse by the fact that most job candidates applying for a job in the organisation have almost no way of knowing about the corporate culture of the organisation unless they have worked in the organisation as interns for a particular/inordinate period of time. The fact that each of us holds different attitudes and perceptions to a particular organisation’s corporate culture (due to our different life experiences etc) doesn’t make matters easier. What job candidates have is an organisation’s website and the interview process (or processes if they are fortunate), both of which will probably not tell them much about an organisation’s corporate culture.  But corporate vision is different. It’s usually right there on the organisation’s website, or framed and hung up in one of the organisation’s conference rooms.

In another words, corporate vision is merely a sentence or two (or maybe a few paragraphs) while corporate culture is a set of practices that permeate the entire organisation. This explains why new employees are more often fumbled by an organisation’s corporate culture than by its corporate vision.

There is no great/standard way to circumnavigate this issue and more often than not, I believe that most of us just resolve this issue via a “trial-and-error” process. For the lucky ones among us, they might get to work as interns. And due to the fact that they fit into the corporate culture of the organisation, it’s a smooth transition from intern to employee right after their internship process. But those are probably the fortunate few. For the rest of us, we will probably have to work in various organisations (at times in different capacities) to find the right organisation where there a right fit between the organisation’s corporate culture and ourselves. This may take months or even years,  but this seems to be the only way. There is a silver lining in the cloud though. When we move between organisations, there are transferable skills that we are able to pack with us when we move. Some examples range from soft skills such as interpersonal communication skills to somewhat technical expertise such as streamlining work processes, which really depends on your profession and personal work experiences during your terms of employment with the organisation. And so it goes, until we find an organisation whose corporate culture is in tune with our personal values and beliefs.

Most corporate workplaces I have come across are usually collectivistic in nature, both in the work processes and in the course of working as a team player. Herein lies the problem for the individualists, who often face a conflict between utilising their talents in a collectivistic work environment (which may be detrimental to how they are perceived as team players) and having to conform (where their talents mostly go unseen and regrettably, unused). Since there are quite a number of individualists in this world, not all will fit into a corporate environment. However, if an organisation possesses a corporate culture that embraces not only diversity but individualism, then that organisation will probably attract more talents than any typical organisations. Thus, corporate culture can be seen as one of the primary determining factor of the success of any organisations.  It’s surprising to see that most organisations and textual resources out there regard corporate vision as the springboard to success instead.

If an organisation is a machine, then the corporate visions will merely serve as the blueprints for the future productivity of the machine while corporate cultures are the actual mechanics and design of the machine, the nuts and bolts that keep the machine running for years to time.

What is the point of focusing in organisations’ future when the very essence of their success lies in the here and now?


2 thoughts on “Corporate Culture versus Corporate Vision

  1. This is an interesting article. It has brought to the fore the differences between corporate culture and corporate vision in a very direct manner. Very nice.


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