Should company culture be a primary or secondary concern in the business world?

Day 2 of the 2013 Executive Leadership Workshop focused on the importance of business culture in creating a sustainable business. Tom Brennan ’86, CEO of Goshido, ran the students through a series of group exercises to get them thinking about whether or not a company’s leadership team should make company culture a primary or secondary priority.

The students engaged in two debates: the first debate was focused on the question of whether company culture should be primary or secondary. However, it was the secondary debate that really got the students going! This debate was based on a Harvard Business School case study about a crisis on Northwest Airlines where customers were stranded on a grounded plane for 8+ hours due to inclimate weather. There were three teams: the customers, the CEOs and the Board of Directors.

Their challenge? The three groups had to try to appease one another – the customers wanted a settlement, the CEOs wanted to keep their jobs and the Board was worried about publicity.

Tom Brennan’s goal was to get the students thinking about the challenges that emerge in companies, particularly between different groups of constituencies, and to understand how communications need to go in order for a company to be sustainable. Tom was pretty clear that in his opinion company culture had to be a primary focus. However, after getting all riled up in the debate, I’m not sure all of the students were complete sure that they agreed.

Today’s topic: Business Ethics. The students are currently mid-discussion of whether or not it’s ok to take a pen home from work. Is that stealing? Or, is it ok…after all, it’s just a pen? Check back tomorrow to see how ethical this group really is!

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