A story is a narrative based on true events that are repeated frequently and shared among organizational employees. Stories are told to new employees to keep the organization’s primary values alive. One of Nordstrom’s primary means of emphasizing their importance of customer’s service is through corporate story telling. An example is the story about a sales representative who took back a customer’s two year old blouse with no questions asked. A frequency told story at UPS concerns an employee who, without authorization ordered an extra Boeing 737 to ensure timely delivery of a load of Christmas, packages that had been left behind in the holiday rush. As the story goes, rather than punishing the worker UPS rewarded his initiative. By telling this story UPS workers communicate that the company stands behind its commitment to worker autonomy and customer service.
A hero is a figure who exemplifies the deeds character and attributes of a strong culture. Heroes are role models for employees to follow. Sometimes heroes are real such as the female security supervisors who once challenged IBM’s chairman because he wasn’t carrying the appropriate clearance identification to enter a security area. Other times they are symbolic such as the mythical sales representative at Robinson Jewelers who delivered a wedding ring directly to the church because the ring had been ordered late. The deeds of heroes are out of the ordinary, but not so far out as to be unattainable by other employees. Heroes show how to do the right thing in the organization. Companies with strong cultures take advantage of achievements to define heroes who uphold key values.
At 3M Corp, top managers keep alive the heroes who developed projects that were killed by top management . One hero was a vice president who was fired earlier in his career for persisting with a new product even after his boss had told him that’s a stupid idea. After the worker was fired he would not leave. He stayed in an unused office, working without a salary on the new product idea. Eventually he was retired, the idea succeeded and he was promoted to the post of the vice president. The lesson of this hero as a major element in 3M’s culture is to persist at what you believe in.
Slogan: A phrase or sentence that succinctly expresses a key corporate value.
A slogan is a phrase or sentence that succinctly expresses a key corporate value. Many companies use a slogan or saying to convey special meaning to employees. H Ross Perot of electronics Data systems established the philosophy of hiring the best people he could find and noted how difficult it was to find them. His motto was Eagles don’t flock. You gather them one at a time. Averitt Express uses the slogan ‘our driving force is people on its trucks to express its commitment to treating employees and customers well’. Cultural values can also be discerned in written public statements such as corporate mission statements or other formal statements that express the core values of the organization. The mission statement for Hallmark Cards for example emphasizes values of excellence in ethical and moral conduct in all relationships business innovation and corporate social responsibility.
A ceremony is a planned activity that makes up a special event and is conducted for the benefit of an audience. Managers hold ceremonies to provide dramatic examples of company values. Ceremonies are special occasions that reinforce valued accomplishments create a bond among people by allowing them to share an important event, and anoint and celebrate heroes.
The value of a ceremony can be illustrated by the presentation of major award. A company can also bestow an award secretly by mailing it to the employee’s home or, if a check by depositing it in a bank. But such procedures would not make the bestowal of rewards a significant organizational event and would be less meaningful to the employee.
Excerpts from New Era of Management