Many moons ago, my employer prior to IBM/Lotus was U.S. Robotics.  I joined USR when there were only about 300 employees, shortly after their IPO.  It was, for a time, an incredibly enjoyable place to work.  USR felt like family, where everyone knew everyone (and if you didn't, there was a gallery of employee photos in the main building hallway).  Eventually, the company started growing too fast, and for many reasons, including the eventual acquisition by 3Com, many of us who enjoyed that culture departed.  Still, my mind stores mostly fond memories of that period, with tons of valuable lessons learned.
Liz Ryan, who was then USR's vice president of human resources, has continued her influence on many of us well after we all left.  The USR-alums mailing list sends occasional trips down memory lane across my inbox, and provides a nice way to connect with old friends and colleagues.  In this BusinessWeek Online article, Liz explores the reasons why employee culture is a major factor in company success:

When a culture is bad, it's bad all the way through, and it can't deliver uplifting business results.

The good news is that the same is true in reverse. When smart people work together as a team, great things can happen. If the product mix is wrong or the Web site needs tuning or the business strategy is flawed, it's not a big deal to change -- if the underlying organization is healthy.

Companies can fail in one initiative, make adjustments, and quickly find success -- if there's a healthy platform to start with.
In a big company, there's clearly not just one single culture.  Liz's observations can apply to departments/divisions/sites just as much as an overall company.  Good thoughts.
Link: BusinessWeek: It's the Culture, Stupid >

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