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Corporate Culture and the Mormon Church

March 7, 2009

As I take a management principles class, we are preparing to discuss how corporate culture is created and enforced. The idea fascinates me, because I can certainly recognize aspects of organizational and corporate culture in play, but what I’m more interested in is how these cultures spring up. Can one consciously work (whether through grassroots or top-down) to set a corporate culture that becomes the norm, or are things fluid over time, set with little control?

I’m moving to the point in my studies where we are challenged to recruit with firms and try to find which firms best fit us. The issue is…I guess we just haven’t had enough exposure yet…but all of the firms say things like, “What matters is the people.” Apparently, when you find out what the corporate culture is (as espoused by the people who will represent the firm) that’ll let all of us know which firm is The One.

Like I said before, I really don’t have enough experience yet to make any judgments, so I’m still open to all of the firms, but I can’t help but feel that the Big 4 accounting firms in particularly are all saying and doing the same things. It seems you have these megaliths of massive clockwork, and then you have Grant Thornton tagging as one that wishes to be another clockwork megalith, RSM McGladrey as a megalith that seeks to be a Middle Market, BDO Seidman and the rest.

And indeed, I can begin to see some broad differences here. The Big 4 have some resource competitive advantages that even GT can’t compete with. When KPMG emphasizes how much international opportunity is available (although I strongly suspect this may be highly exaggerated — everyone can’t get a Global Internship), I feel bad for Grant Thornton, which came before the KPMG presentation with some cool stuff, but nothing as grandiose. And of course, even before hearing Deloitte, EY, and PwC, I sense that they will be bringing out similar guns.

Of course, interestingly enough, there seems to be a disconnect, of course, between what the firms say and what many employees say. The firms present the luscious apple of work life integration/balance/whatever the buzzword is, but employees still speak of this merely being a buzzword.

Even more curious though were the criticisms I read recently of a few employees (I don’t like merely isolated reports, but finding common threads is reassuring)…they noted that while the HR departments of their respective firms indeed do work well to try to support work life balance, instead it’s the corporate cultures of people in the firms that implicitly shun (that’s definitely too strong a word, though) those who take full advantage of these opportunities.

The Middle Market firms do not have some of the resources, of course, and that gives me some doubts, but from talking with representatives of smaller firms, I get a better feel that I won’t just be a cog in the clockwork. Yes, I’ll work hard, but will have more connection to my work.

…I dunno. I’m still in a position where I don’t know. And I can’t really know until I jump further in.

One of my favorite (or maybe not so more anymore?) organizations to analyze is the Mormon church, since I’ve been “in” it for so long. I think most people, especially members, recognize the pressing differences between the church as a religion, the church as a culture, but also the church as an organization. As an organization, the church strives to maintain institutional viability. So while many members might want more open Mormon history, the question is whether this would strengthen the organization or not?

I think that the church has moved toward defining a corporate culture through information control. Through correlation, everyone learns the same materials at the same time, so the members are generally together on any piece of doctrine (and it actually raises morale and sense of belonging, *I* think, to know that wherever in the world you are, the church will be familiar and similar). There are talks in General Conference that set the tone for official church direction, lessons each week in Sunday School, Relief Society, and Priesthood, and then also the mechanism by which new members are socialized — the missionaries — who also are given similar materials (with Preach My Gospel as the latest to redefine what it means to be a missionary.)

But how does this compare with other corporate cultures? I hear that some companies have employees recite the values or credo at every meeting so that they will keep this in mind with all decisions. Does this mimic scripture mastery or the learning of the articles of faith? What are good comparisons?

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  1. Well, one rule of thumb:

    If during the interview, you notice that firm associates have cots in their offices… run away. Fast.

  2. I have a placard of my company’s values in my cube – possibly to balance out the dilbert cartoons I also have posted. Values or credos are not recited at each meeting. Although people do sometimes refer to the company’s “core mission”.

    Back in the day, some corporations (like IBM?) used to have company songs. NPR did a story about it some years ago. I can’t imagine (currently) working for a company that had a song.

    I actually had a post about the LDS religion as a non-profit organization here on main street plaza.

    And I realize this is very negative, if LDS Inc. is trying to run itself like a fortune 500 corporation they’re doing a pretty poor job. They don’t follow things that would be in management 101 – ex. retiring at a certain age or hiring talent instead of family.

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