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What is your Company Core Spirit?

EVERY COMPANY has an essential corporate or core-spirit that is driving it toward greatness or slowly to its demise. Your company and everyone other one is no exception to this -- whether someone is part of a large multi-plant furniture company, a small cabinet shop or a company supplying goods or services to this industry.

Much has been discussed about corporate climate and corporate culture over the years. It is important to understand these terms and their relationship to "core-spirit" before delving into this month's topic further.

Corporate Climate

Corporate climate embodies the perceptions by employees of the company imperatives -- those things that are classified as very important, urgent, vital or essential for the success of the company. For example, to what extent does the company promote employee satisfaction and well-being? What are the prioritized goals of the company?

Employees of Tramway Furniture Industries may feel that the company does not place their welfare high on its list of priorities because there is no 401(k) or other retirement plan. There has been no effort to cross-train them, and there is little or no understanding of personal problems, etc. In addition, the plant is not well kept nor is it very clean, especially the washrooms. With regard to perceptions of manufacturing imperatives, there may be little or no encouragement to reduce waste in the plant. A common perception in plants is that everyone must meet the production goals -- no matter what -- or they will be called on the carpet. All of these are negative perceptions and contribute to a negative corporate climate.

On the other hand, the climate can be positive, as at Temple Millwork, where employees feel that they come first in the eyes of the company because they have a great place to work, are paid a fair wage according to their own performance and skills and have a flexible benefit package to meet their needs. In addition, they are encouraged to present ideas on how to improve the company and the products it manufacturers. The workplace is clean and well lit with clean and convenient washrooms. The company is always stressing that customer satisfaction is a priority and that means quality first.

Corporate Culture

Corporate culture, simply stated, represents the attitudes and habits of employees resulting from the climate. Under the first scenario at Tramway Furniture Industries, employees will have a negative attitude about everything, including the company itself. They will not take care of machinery and will not produce a quality product without a lot of rework. The culture will be one of complacency and self-centeredness. The general attitude might be: "the heck with the company, I'm going to look out for myself -- after all, they don't care about me." In this culture, the typical employee will show up to work four days a week and look at his watch 50 times during the day, an average of once every ten minutes.

In contrast, those employees at Temple Millwork are probably happy and enthusiastic about their company and their future. They are likely to feel part of a close community and tell friends what a great place Temple is to work and actually bring them by to apply for a job. They have the best interest of the company in mind because the company has that mutual respect for them.

What Is Company Core Spirit?

Having reviewed all of this, what is a company's core spirit? How do you define it?

The core spirit of a company determines the climate and the culture within it. Every company has a heart and that is its core spirit. This heart can be likened unto the one that pumps life-giving blood through our bodies. More importantly, it represents the "heart" that we refer to when we try to describe where our souls or our innermost values -- the paradigms with which we frame our lives -- reside.

The core spirit is found in the cumulative make-up of what is typically called "top management" or the top two or three layers of the management structure of a company. In a large furniture or store fixture company, the group begins at the Board of Directors level and continues to those reporting to the C.E.O and maybe those reporting to them. In a small wood-working company, the owner and his family may comprise this group.

The core spirit generated by a group of top management affects every member of an organization. Each employee catches the "spirit" and it becomes a part of the climate and culture throughout the company. Sometimes changes have to be made in the core management of a company to radically alter or fine-tune the core spirit. After all, the success or failure of a company is dependent on this leadership core.

Whenever the core spirit changes, the company changes with it. At least 80% of the employees will recognize it and embrace it over a relatively short time. The rest will take longer. Those who cannot adapt quick enough, leave the company one way or another.

What Can You Do?

If you are a member of the core or top management of your company, you are in a good position to change the core spirit within that group if there are problems. It may not be an easy task, but is one worthy of your efforts. A supervisor in a small company can have the same effect as a vice-president of a large corporation. The key is to recognize a problem and then try to address it by sharing this article and beginning a serious dialogue on the subject.

The core spirit drives everything else about a company. Are your employees happy and enthusiastic about their work? Are you contributing positively or negatively to your company core spirit? Review the questions in the side bar on page 51 and determine what your next step will be.

In the survey, if your company scores below 15, there is a serious problem with the core spirit and the results are reflected in the answers to these questions. Work needs to be done within the core management structure of the company to urgently change the core spirit. This company is probably struggling and no one knows why.

A score between 15 and 18 indicates weak areas that need to be investigated and corrected. This company can continue as it is for a while, but needs to work on its core spirit to improve the corporate climate and its chance for long-term success.

A score above 18 indicates a positive climate and culture resulting from a healthy core spirit. While this will foster growth and profitability, any weakness should be analyzed -- there is always room for improvement.

Torn Dossenbach is managing director of Dossenbach Associates LLC, a Sanford, NC-based international management and productivity consulting firm. He can be reached at (919) 775-5017 or through his firm's Web site at His previous columns, dating back to January 1999, are archived on

A Quick Check on Company Climate and Culture

_____ Yes = 2 Somewhat = 1 No = 0

_____ Are your employees happy in their work and feel appreciated?

_____ Are your employees genuinely proud of the products they make?

_____ Does the top management core have the respect of others?

_____ Are all employees empowered to make changes for the good?

_____ Do core management members spend adequate time in the plant?

_____ Are customers happy with products and service?

_____ Does the company promote continuous improvement?

_____ Do employees try to build up peers rather than criticize them?

_____ Are employees intent on reducing all kinds of waste?

_____ Is there genuine trust between management and workers?

_____ TOTAL 0-14 = Problems; 15-18 = Weaknesses; 19+ = OK

The beliefs and behaviors of the top 8 to 12 managers -- The core management of the company -- Forms the Core Spirit.

NO MATTER WHAT THE SIZE, there is no doubt that the core spirit of a company is generated from the top down. If the C.E.O. tries to make all of the decisions and is self-centered, it is a good bet that a close look at the company will reveal a lack of enthusiasm and a total lack of teamwork and cooperation in every department. Furthermore, the company is likely behind times in keeping up with competition and is inefficient and wasteful in the factory. However, one cannot give credit or blame for the core spirit to the C.E.O. only. All of the top eight to twelve managers must share this responsibility.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Vance Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2001
Previous Article:Oak's a Winner With Americans in National Arbor Day Foundation Poll.
Next Article:Laminates Front and Center.

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