In my world, ‘corporate’ is synonymous with big structure, big processes and big systems. Of course, it is not its strict meaning, which is purely legal in the sense of ‘authorised to act as an entity’.
But in the day to day meaning, we have indeed corporatized the corporation, excuse my language. We have overlaid the structure with too rigid, global and uniform processes and systems. We have increased complexity and bureaucracy.
In my world, a ‘corporate programme’ often means something imposed upon, top down, something that is almost untouchable. A performance management system may have some flexibility, but, when it is ‘corporate’, sorry, there is nothing we can change. ‘Corporate’ becomes sacred.
The corporatization may be so strong that often, for some people to gain credibility on initiatives, they have to present them as ’non corporate’. People want to avoid the ‘here we go again, another corporate programme, will last for a few months and then will die’. Corporate is very often negative language.
In our Viral Change™ Mobilizing Platform, people mobilization is bottom up, or multi-centric. We boost, nurture and grow the informal organization, the spontaneous collaboration, peer-to-peer work, the grassroots movement, singular or plural. All these need to be supported and orchestrated because they don’t come naturally. But it has to be done in a way that does not become absorbed and incorporated by the formal organization. That is, corporatized.
A typical example is one of the Champions (also called influencers, or pioneers) who, in our programmes, have been selected by their peers as the source of influence and cross-collaboration. These communities become very active and useful very soon. The temptation is to ‘corporatize’ them by formalizing them too much. For example, by creating formal teams from what is in essence a bottom up, pre-selected network. Avoiding the temptation of corporatization of these communities is a critical success factor.
Leaders need to reflect on how much ‘the corporate structure’ helps or hinders. A progressive dose of de-formalization is always possible without descending into chaos. Leaders need continuous recalibration, because, left to its own devises, ‘corporate’ will always take over one way or another.
Corporate can be a great structure and platform, or an incredibly expensive straightjacket. The latter, not a very good idea. But most of the time this is a self-inflicted problem that can be tackled successfully.
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