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Why Corporate Culture Matters (and What You Can Do to Make a Better One)

Strong corporate cultures outlast the influence of even the strongest leader. When Steve Jobs leaves Apple, it will be the culture of the company he has helped create that will determine its future success.

Why is culture so important? Harvard Business School professors Jim Heskett and W. Earl Sasser with co-author Joe Wheeler outline 10 reasons in their new book, The Ownership Quotient.
Here is No. 2 on their Top 10 list:

"Like anything worthwhile, culture is something in which you invest. An organization's norms and values aren't formed through speeches but through actions and team learning. Strong cultures have teeth. They are much more than slogans and empty promises. Some organizations choose to part ways with those who do not manage according to the values and behaviors that other employees embrace. Others accomplish the same objective more positively. At Baptist Health Care, for example, managers constantly reinforce the culture by recognizing those whose actions exemplify its values, its behaviors, and its standards. Team successes are cause for frequent celebrations. In addition, BHC rewards individual accomplishments through such things as "WOW (Workers becoming Owners and Winners) Super Service Certificates," appreciation cards for 90-day employees that list their contributions to their team, one-year appreciation awards, multiyear service awards, employee of the month awards, and recognition of workers as "Champions" or "Legends" for extraordinary achievements or service. Managers at all levels offer frequent informal recognition and send handwritten thank-you notes (which stand out in the age of e-mail). Those who aren't living up to BHC's values soon get the point."
Read the other nine best practices for designing a better business culture in this book excerpt from HBS Working Knowledge.
Sean Silverthorne

Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.

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