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Secondary mechanisms to pass on corporate culture

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Less powerful and more covert conductors of corporate culture that are subject to less control, are incorporated in a company’s structure, physical space, stories and legends and formal declarations. And yet, these secondary mechanisms can back up the primary ones, if a manager is able to control and modify them. It is important to keep in mind that all these mechanisms explicate the essence of corporate culture to new members. The question is not whether to use them or not but how to control a certain mechanism.

Secondary mechanisms that help founders and managers to introduce assumptions and ideas into corporate culture are:


  • Composition and structure of a company
  • Systems and principles of a company’s activity
  • Interior design, façade and building of a company
  • Stories, legends and myths about the most important events and people
  • Official statements and documents that declare the company’s philosophy, image and ideology


These mechanisms are secondary only because they depend on the primary ones. If the secondary mechanisms do not contradict the secondary ones then the secondary mechanisms form corporate ideology and institutionalize much of what has been unofficially learned. If the secondary mechanisms contradict the primary ones, they will be either ignored or become a source of an internal conflict.

  1. Composition and structure of a company

Founders of a company are often deeply convinced that they know how to organize a company to make it most efficient. Some believe that it is enough to establish a rigid hierarchy and highly-centralized control system. Others think that it is people that empower a company, therefore they create a structure where power is distributed on all levels. Consequently, founders, from the very beginning, express their views on corporate values in a company’s structure.

  1. Systems and principles of a company’s activity

The most visible part of corporate life is its daily, monthly, quarterly and yearly cycle of processes, reports, events and other regularly occurring phenomena whose causes and sources are sometimes invisible and vague but who serve the same objective as a company’s formal structure: they make a company’s activity more predictable, organized, less hectic and vague.

  1. Interior design, façade and building of a company

Environment plays an important part in corporate culture formation. It is not enough to formulate a company’s policy and methods. Physical surrounding also contributes to corporate culture. For example, a clean shop with neatly arranged goods form certain impression of corporate culture, one of the values here is attention to clients.

Managers who have a clear-cut philosophy and management style always attempt to introduce them in all spheres of a company’s life. For example, the Action Company, whose value is unrestrained communication, is located in a spacious office with low partitions, where only those who sit cannot be seen. Few managers have their own offices (but these are also with glass doors that enables everyone to see what goes on behind the door). Conference-halls and negotiation rooms are furnished with round or oval tables that facilitate communication and emphasizes neglect of formal status. Every room has all facilities for coffee- and tea-drinking. Thus, the interior design of the company stresses such corporate values as equality, importance of communication and human relationships.

  1. Stories, legends and myths about the most important events and people

The longer a company’s history the more legends, myths and stories it offers. Yet, the form to deliver this information is not quite reliable, since the main idea may not be expressed clearly enough. Managers usually cannot control the content of their subordinates’ “tales”.

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