UK: Building A Corporate Culture

Last Updated: 6 January 2014
Article by Guy Rigby

Business leaders and managers must do all they can to ensure that everyone is pulling in the same direction. This comes down to building a corporate culture, having shared values and effectively communicating those values. The point is that shared values create a common direction which makes decision-making far easier, because every decision can be made in line with those values.

Many companies stick motivational messages, mission statements and mottos on the walls of their offices, hoping that by reading these words, staff will automatically begin to exhibit behaviour that reflects the desired values. Unfortunately, as Enron proved with their well-packaged and promoted 'ethical' stance that was later pulled apart by the US Congress, values and actions don't necessarily correlate.

Yet strong values and a real sense of shared purpose can have a huge impact on the quality of the business and its decision-making.

Johnson & Johnson, the multi-national manufacturer of healthcare products and pharmaceuticals, are famous for what they refer to as their 'Credo'. This is a clear values statement and their 'recipe for business success.' It was written in 1943, long before the term 'corporate social responsibility' had even been invented. The Credo challenges staff to "put the needs and well-being of the people they serve first", and provides a guiding philosophy for responsibilities to customers, staff and the wider community. You can look it up on the company's website. It's well worth a read.

Although the language in the Credo is dated, it is taken particularly seriously by the company's management. It is a testament to the fact that the company is one of only a handful which has flourished through more than a century of change. The management commit to practising what they preach and do all they can to ensure that their employees do the same. From providing job security and work-life balance to enabling freedom to provide feedback, they embed these values through their actions, through a decentralised management approach and through the establishment of think tanks, affinity groups and mentoring programmes. Not only do they listen to their teams, they also act on feedback and commit to continuous improvement. There is a mutually beneficial learning process whereby leaders learn from staff and vice versa.

Leaders sometimes need the courage to go against the grain and question established thinking. Sometimes conventional wisdom needs to be broken. Instinct will no doubt pay a part, but seeking and considering team feedback can give leaders the added confidence and support needed to break the mould and gain real competitive advantage.

Johnson & Johnson embraced 'collective intuition' to do just that. Collective intuition is a group dialogue guided by shared company values which leads to a consensus among the team; a blend of feedback and intuition. The power of this collective intuition was harnessed by former CEO William C. Weldon (April 2002 onwards) when it persuaded him to break from the conventional industry wisdom of focusing on a single higher-margin market to take the riskier path of focusing on a broader portfolio of products. The impact of this decision to diversify protected the company from market shifts associated with its core products. And it fast-tracked the company's growth by allowing it to focus on "providing breakthrough products that cure disease and save lives," says William. "Sometimes a leader must be able to endure chaos and appreciate it in order to discover the right thing to do."

Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers is another advocate of collaborative leadership. He has used it to transform his company. Cisco now involves hundreds of executives in making key decisions, rather than the ten top executives that the company used to rely on.

Rather than a formal analytical team meeting, collective intuition goes deeper and derives from continued discussion. As Weldon of Johnson & Johnson discovered, when a group is led by shared experiences and beliefs, it is often drawn towards a specific decision. If the vision and values of a business are strong enough, and truly embedded into the culture, groups will be guided by them.

Where unity is lacking, or where there are an insufficient number of engaged participants, it's wiser to heed your own instinct and balance that out with the feedback you glean. Too many diverse opinions can cause havoc to the decision-making process. As the late Steve Jobs of Apple says, "Never let the noise of other people's opinions drown out your own inner voice." This can be all too common in business. Most successful entrepreneurs will admit to regretting not listening to their inner voice at some point in their careers.

As usual, it's a question of balance. "Every good senior management team and CEO I've worked with has had a range of trusted advisors," says business author Tony Fish. "They listen to all their advice. And then they do their own thing anyway. But they balance it; they take that advice on board when making their final decision."

Further information about culture and values can be found in Guy Rigby's book 'From Vision to Exit – The Entrepreneur's Guide to Building and Selling a Business', available on Amazon and in all good book shops.


By necessity this briefing can only provide a short overview and it is essential to seek professional advice before applying the contents of this article. No responsibility can be taken for any loss arising from action taken or refrained from on the basis of this publication. Article correct at time of writing.

Smith & Williamson LLP

Regulated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales for a range of investment business activities. A member of Nexia International.

The word partner is used to refer to a member of Smith & Williamson LLP.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.