“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” but are you having ‘bretzels’ or ‘bing’?

We love Peter Drucker’s quote at ICUnet but what Peter would have gone on to say if he’d seen China today, is that the corporate culture you adopt needs to be culturally anchored. What makes a really great corporate culture? That depends on where you are in the world. In China, we eat ‘bing’ (pancakes) and in Germany, we eat ‘bretzels’ for breakfast.


Corporate culture was originally a Western management concept and most Western companies take it seriously. Many revise their corporate values every 2-3 years and recruitment of new employees is often on the back of a certain set of cultural core values.


How do Chinese companies approach the subject? How do they embed cultural values and which ones are they interested in?


It was back in 2005 that the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) urged Chinese companies to ‘strengthen and build’ their corporate cultures. In 2006, the Chinese government regulated that all Chinese companies must have the position of Corporate Culture Officer. The government has also sponsored corporate culture training for thousands of executives over the past ten years. 


Overall, Chinese companies are often more entrepreneurial and adaptive by nature than

Western companies, which tend to have fixed roles and strong branding, some of which is linked to their ‘corporate culture’ and this can make them less flexible in this fast-paced market. Chinese companies take corporate culture seriously too! At Huawei, in the early days of their corporate culture development, it was possible to have your pay docked if you didn’t meet the culture targets. Pragmatism, lifelong learning, flexibility and strict enforcement of these cultures feature highly at many of the leading Chinese companies.


So, there is certainly a cultural bias when it comes to defining a corporate culture. For a joint venture or multinational in China, cultural values that are brought in from head office in Europe or the US, need to be defined in a Chinese context if they are to be engaged with here. The intercultural complexities of a diverse team located in China necessitate a different approach to understanding cultural values and if you haven’t looked at your corporate values through the intercultural lens recently, we’d urge you to try it because if the values can be defined at the beginning in a way that makes sense across cultures, they have a much better chance of lasting the distance and being relevant for the whole team for many years to come.


Email us at info@icunet.cn and tell us your corporate values.

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