Discussion Post

Define organizational culture and ways culture can be transmitted to employees? What are the various way it can be displayed? Discuss and provide examples for each. Considering an organization you know well, have any of these examples surfaced as more important than the others?

The text defines organizational culture as the system of shared meaning held by members that distinguish the organization from other organizations. (Robbins & Judge, 2018, p. 266) This definition strikes me as a bit ethereal.

I like the definition of organizational behavior as “a pattern of basic assumptions—invented, discovered, or developed by a given group as it learns to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration—that has worked well enough to be considered … the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.” (Martinez, Beaulieu, Gibbons, Pronovost & Wang, 2015, p. 1)

This week I visited a customer, I won’t mention their name (at least not yet), but a picture (https://photos.app.goo.gl/ZsStfaEFkYXXJmH93) from my visit might be a good indicator. If you still have no idea, hint, the company is the most popular gaming company in the world at the moment, packing stadiums around the globe for Esports events. The company has an incredibly strong culture and identity, employees are proud of the culture, and they shepherd it, they are players above all else. One of the things they outlined was an organizational culture expectation; they like many other high-performing cultures have a mindset that places an employee fit and aptitude over discrete skill and the ability to execute.

A quick look at the Amazon Leadership principles reveals things like “Customer Obsession,” “Invent and Simplify,” “Are Right, A Lot,” “Learn and Be Curious,” “Hire and Develop the Best,” “Insist on the Highest Standards,” and “Think Big.” (Amazon’s global career site, n.d.)  Amazon’s culture is everywhere from the published leadership principles tot he domain name relentless.com which Bezos’ registered in the early days as a potential name for the company before deciding on amazon.com.  relentless.com continues to live on as an important aspect of the Amazon story and redirect to amazon.com, but most of all it represents a something known by few about Amazon’s organizational climate.

The well documented NetFlix culture will reveal principles like “People over Process,” “Freedom & Responsibility,” “High Performance,” “Context, not Control,” “Highly Aligned, Loosely Coupled,” and “Promotions & Development.” These principles are guided by values like judgment, communication, impact, curiosity, innovation, courage, passion, honesty, and selflessness. (Culture At Netflix | Netflix Jobs, n.d.)

The company I visited earlier this week defines the culture in a manifesto which has five tenents: “Player Experience First,” “Challenge Convention,” “Focus on Talent and Team,” “Take Play Seriously,” and “Stay Hungry; Stay Humble.” (Who We Are, n.d.)

I love what Reed Hastings says about values “Values are what we Value” (Hastings, 2009, p. 4) and what we value is, in my opinion, is a big determining factor of the organizational climate. (Robbins & Judge, 2018, p. 269)

People are the culture, values define the culture, and if the people do not buy into the values, then the culture begins to become fractured and weak.

The common thread you will find across all these cultures is they protect the culture, and they have a maniacal focus on hiring for fit. Each of these organizations has a rigorous interview process designed to protect the culture.  They all gate the hiring process in one way or another to ensure a cultural best-fit situation.

Amazon uses the “bar-raiser” to gate the hiring process. (Steward, 2016) It is the job of the bar raiser to protect Amazon strong culture, ensuring that Amazon’s core values will be “intensely held and widely shared.” (Robbins & Judge, 2018, p. 268)

NetFlix and Riot Games are not bashful about stating that they have different requirements for contractors vs. employees. Contractors can be incredible executors, they may have a work specialization (Robbins & Judge, 2018, p. 246 – 247) that makes them highly effective within a specific domain, but maybe they don’t possess the intangibles that would allow them to make them a cultural fit. In Netflix’s case this would be “Freedom & Responsibility,” in Amazon’s case maybe this is “Think Big” and in Riot Games case maybe your not a gamer and you can’t be a Rioter because can never embody “Player First.” Netflix and many others are overt in stating that they hold salaried, hourly and contract employees to different standards.

Organizational culture is actively on display and transmitted to employees in a myriad of ways. The organizations I mentioned above intently focus on hiring stewards of their culture, who believe deeply and passionately the values and mission of their respective organizations which makes them cultural evangelists. Riot Games being a gaming company has an immersive cultural experience. An aerial view of Riot Games campus in West Lost Angeles will reveal that it is laid out like the League of Legends game board, each area of the office is named and themed like an area (city-state) within the game, and conference rooms are named after characters from the game. Rioters play LoL in a PC Bang; this is where players in South Korea play the game and if you know anything about gaming you know South Korea is the mecca of gaming. I love this line from their website “…creative people making cool shit faster than a Hadron Collider that’s been chugging energy drinks all day. We think you’ll prolly like it, too.” (The New L.A. Campus, n.d.)

More and more I think we see immersive examples of organizational culture. The Riot Games example was fresh in my mind because I spent time there this week, but there are plenty of other examples like the Lamborghini that sits in Alibaba’s lobby in Hangzhou, China. Two men sourced all the parts for the Lamborghini through Alibaba and assembled the car over a one year period just to prove you could buy anything on Alibaba’s massive online marketplace, and now the car sits in the lobby of Alibaba’s corporate headquarters. (Soper, 2015)


Amazon’s global career site. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2018, from https://www.amazon.jobs/principles

Culture At Netflix | Netflix Jobs. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2018, from https://jobs.netflix.com/culture

Hastings, R. (2009, August 01). Culture. Retrieved April 20, 2018, from https://www.slideshare.net/reed2001/culture-1798664

Martinez, E. A., Beaulieu, N., Gibbons, R., Pronovost, P., & Wang, T. (2015). Organizational culture and performance. The American Economic Review, 105(5), 331-335. doi:10.1257/aer.p20151001

Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. (2018). Essentials of organizational behavior. New York, NY: Pearson.

Soper, T. (2015, November 11). Inside Alibaba: Photos from the Chinese technology giant’s headquarters. Retrieved from https://www.geekwire.com/2015/inside-alibaba-photos-from-the-chinese-technology-giants-headquarters/

Steward, A. (2016, October 27). Former Amazon ‘bar raiser’ offers insight into hiring process: What job seekers, companies can learn. Retrieved April 20, 2018, from https://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/blog/techflash/2016/10/former-amazon-bar-raiser-offers-insight-into.html

The New L.A. Campus. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.riotgames.com/en/work-with-us/offices/los-angeles/the-new-la-campus

Who We Are. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2018, from https://www.riotgames.com/en/who-we-are


Response Post

Scott, insightful and personalized read as usual. I remember being nineteen and joining a fraternity, learning to say the Greek Alphabet with my pledge brothers, forward, backward and in unison before the match stick which was held upside down burned your fingers was not an easy task, but the idea was to be one. The question always was “how many pledges are there?” The answer was always, “one.” Well, not always because when you said 27 the brother who asked the question would say no “one” and when you said “one” the brother who asked the question would say “can’t you count, there is 27 of you”. Anyway, the entire overarching theme was to assimilate you. During hell week we would have an event called jell-o night, where all the pledges would march to the cafeteria at 4 PM (when it opened). Anyone who has ever been to a cafeteria knows they never run out of jell-o, pudding, cottage cheese and whatever else they put in that area of the buffet (been a while), but hey I was nineteen. The idea was that pledge number 27 would eat first, as much as they could in X amount of time, then pledge 26, etc… etc… The idea was you didn’t want to leave the anchor with all the work. I was the treasurer, so I ate 3rd to last and a guy named Brett, he was a beast, was the president of my pledge class and well deserving because over twelve weeks I watched that guy suck up so much slack in support of others, a true leader. Simon Sinek says “leaders eat last” and this guy ate last for twelve weeks and he ate his share, and the share everyone else couldn’t eat, he put the best interest of others above his interest, because his interest was the success of the team, this is leadership.

When asked by people who didn’t know me at 19, who are usually shocked that I was in a fraternity if I would do it again my answer is, absolutely. It’s not the military, for sure, but I did develop a bond with those 27 guys, we struggled together, and we succeeded or failed together without exception. The strong picked up the slack for the weak and everyone had their opportunity to pull their weight in different areas. Getting through without teamwork wasn’t an option and looking a back on it, while there were some crazy and stupid things that were done, there were a few valuable lessons I walked away with.

Side note I have an uncle who is an enlisted veteran with 37 years in the Marine Corp with a rank of Sergeant Major, he’s a pretty hardcore individual. He’s been out now for quite a few years, and he struggled to assimilate into civilian life, so he did what felt natural, went to work as a civilian contractor at Camp Lejeune. 🙂

Probably a topic for a different forum (like around the fire with a six pack), but cultures with extreme assimilation typically aren’t very good at adapting to diversity. With a world that is becoming increasingly diverse, I wonder how these cultures will adapt, feels like we are only at the beginning.