Although much has been written about the importance of company culture within a business of any size, it seems as though something has been lost in the translation. According to Matthew Goodchild, founder, and CEO of Edge Connect in Atlanta, “Somehow structure and culture have been intertwined and although they are two very separate concepts that have a symbiotic relationship, they are not the same thing in any way.”
He goes on to explain that leaders on any level actually set the stage for company culture, but it is up to the founders and the board of directors to establish structure. “Although they work hand in hand, it is vital to understand the difference. I’ve found that because they have become so entangled, a great number of leaders fail to recognize why a structure is falling apart or that there seems to be no definitive company culture.”
What Matthew is referring to is the set of rules under which every task in a company follows those predefined procedures. Company culture, on the other hand, is the set of values and ethics within which a company operates. “It is imperative that leaders understand the values of the mission statement so that they can work within a structure without letting go of the very foundation of the company. That would be the values that define company culture.”
Matthew likes to use an example of a company that recognized the need to lower its carbon footprint dramatically. With that mission statement in mind, the founder devised a way of producing electricity with the lowest amount of carbon emissions possible. However, along the way, the structure under which they operated kept changing to increase profitability but at the same time, produced a higher amount of carbon emissions.
“Leaders then kept working toward the bottom line without keeping the company culture in mind. It began as a green company in terms of the environment, but before long that green became the currency deposited in the bank. With a green economy in the truest sense, it is a culture of inclusion and diversity where everyone was focused on a radically different way of producing energy while making a good living wage. If it meant deviating from the culture of a green economy, structure outweighed culture, and that company lost consumer trust.”
The point Matthew is making is that culture is the set of values and ethics that underline structure. Both are important but if one suffers because of the other, everyone loses. “In a case like that, it’s time for the highest level of leadership to go back to the drawing board keeping culture as the underlying principles that drive them forward.”