The Corporation | Joel Bakan

Summary of: The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power
By: Joel Bakan


Delve into the powerful role of culture within an organization through the insightful book, ‘The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power’ by Joel Bakan. The summary explores the intricate connections between an organization’s history, founder’s behavior, and the way it evolves and survives over time. You will discover the three levels of organizational culture – Artifacts, Espoused Values, and Shared Tacit Assumptions – and grasp the concept of culture change, the challenges faced during mergers, and the complexities of assessing subcultures. The book prompts a critical reassessment of organizational culture and its relevance to business problems, offering valuable guidance on implementing cultural changes while preserving existing strengths.

The Impact of Culture

Failing to consider culture when making decisions can lead to unforeseen consequences. Understanding and acknowledging culture is crucial for making efficient organizational choices. In “Culture Counts,” the role of culture in organizational life is explored, emphasizing the importance of anticipating outcomes and being aware of its influence on decision-making. With this knowledge, individuals and organizations can make informed choices that align with their values and goals.

Understanding Culture in Organizations

Culture in organizations is formed at different levels, from artifacts, espoused values, to shared tacit assumptions. To understand any culture, you must examine the background assumptions. Culture controls you more than you control culture, and its key elements are essentially invisible. Culture is deep, broad and stable, because members of an organization cling to what has made them successful. To change culture, you must first understand how your organization works.

Assessing Organizational Culture

Unveil your group’s culture with the right exercise. A survey cannot assess culture; instead, a four-hour process with an outside facilitator and colleagues can be helpful. The process includes defining a particular problem, reviewing and identifying artifacts, identifying values, and comparing values with artifacts to uncover deeper culture levels. Subgroups with their unique cultures can be examined if needed. The process helps to understand how shared assumptions affect the group’s goals, which can contribute to future growth and improvement.

Creating a Successful Organizational Culture

The culture of a young organization is shaped by the behaviors and beliefs of its founders. It evolves through both general and specific changes that are driven by the needs of the business. A successful culture is one that supports the primary task of the organization. Changing culture should not be the starting point, but rather addressing the business issues and assessing whether the culture aids or hinders resolving them. Dysfunctional assumptions may exist within the culture, but the organization can compensate for their consequences as long as it is aware of them.

Managing Subcultures in Growing Companies

As a company grows, subcultures emerge, and cultural issues arise. To confront these challenges, companies must encourage dialogue and understanding among subcultures, and design succession procedures that support identity and address anxiety. Culture-change leaders must gain the necessary perspective to recognize cultural strengths and weaknesses and become marginalized in their own culture. This is especially challenging for entrepreneurial founders who believe their assumptions are always correct. Companies that successfully manage subcultures will combine elements of the main culture with new, specific assumptions.

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