Companies, as large or not so large social groupings, have an ideology ( a logic of ideas). It may not be called like that. Other people may choose to use the concept of ‘overall narrative’. Both are cousins for me. For weeks now I am researching what has been said (not a lot) or could be said about ‘company ideology’. My view is that, once you find that there is one, most things inside, its dynamics, power tensions, conflicts and paths of achievement, what gets rewarded and not, behaviours, values, etc, start making sense. Also, knowing the Idea-Logic (ideology) would have predictive value: the kind of people they will attract, how they will set up strategy, what will be considered success, etc.
For me, uncovering the Idea-Logic, is a way to untangle the ‘organizational logic’ that I was talking about in my previous mini-series: ‘Beyond mission and vision …and the rest. Reframing the company steering system in 2015’- 1,2,3,4&5.
I believe that the number of Idea-Logic variants that we find in companies is limited. There are not millions. A little bit like the universal literary scripts (e.g ‘The Seven Basic Plots’ Christopher Booker, 2004) and the myths.
Historically, and currently, all companies fall into some particular Idea-Logic, or ideology, perhaps dominating other secondary ones. My hypothesis is that although there may be some co-existing Idea-Logic, they must be compatible with the overriding one. And there is always one, explicit or not. Often, the dominating company language, its idiom, their dialects, are the first and obvious cue to uncover the true ideology.
This is not exactly the same as culture. Culture is the host, the container, the sum. If the ideology is very strong, ideology and culture may overlap significantly. But the culture may contain, and cater for, several Idea-Logic. Again, I still think there is always a dominant one.
I’ll be sharing some of those Idea-Logic (narratives) from time to time, as they build themselves into some shape in my own thinking, research and papers.
The first one in the list is ‘Business as War’.
You can see that there are companies in which the language of war has taken over. The idiom is full of winning, fighting or killing the competition, crashing others, gaining market share (the territorial conquest) and other military language of campaigns and attacks.
This Ideo-Logic ‘Business and War’, for example, has books entitled “Marketing as Warfare’ (1986), ‘Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun’ (1989) and, above all, the references and variants of Sun Tzu ‘The Art of War’, plus the ubiquitous Machiavelli, just to name a tiny number of them. Lawrence Freedman in his magisterial treatise ‘Strategy’ (2015) dedicates a short chapter to this and draws parallels between business strategy and military strategy.
There is always a bit of ‘war narrative’ in many companies, by the very nature of the existence of something called ‘competition’. But it only becomes Idea-Logic (ideology) when this narrative takes over as the overriding one.
Here, employees are warriors and managers are generals. They may not necessarily use the language but the frame may be strong enough to dominate.
This is one of some, a clear one. Let’s review others as they come along. Send your ideas!
By the way, ‘engagement’, as in Employee Engagement, is a military concept as well. Just a thought.