June 2003 - Understanding Company Personality
Companies are People, Too
A new book, Companies are People Too, by Sandra Fekete, owner of Fekete + Company (a marketing consulting company) describes company cultures in the familiar of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
What makes this book so interesting is that it provides a description of company personalities in a new way — using a questionnaire to get at the culture that has been validated by 100 percent of the companies that have used it. An online form of the questionnaire can be taken at www.companiesarepeopletoo.com.
The book contains a sample questionnaire, then covers each of the 16 types in much more detail, with a case study describing a well-known company that fits that type.
This article gives an overview of her system. You must really read the book to get a full appreciation of the breadth of her work. This article provides a tiny example of the richness that comes through in the book.
The book describes 16 different company styles as follows:
For each of the 16 company personality types, the book then give a Snapshot, Characteristic Strengths, Characteristic Weaknesses, Work Environment, Values, Communication Style, Sources of Energy, Signs of Stress, Behavior during Conflict, Approaches to Managing Change, Ideal Clients, Core Values and a Case Study company.
A very short summary of the 16 types:Practicality
These 4 styles are by nature practical, realistic and dependable. There is a stabilizing force in companies with this temperament — so much so that change is difficult to champion. These companies "feel" institutional and tend to value hierarchy and organization.
"Solid as A Rock" (ISTJ)
Values: Excellence, Hard Work, Tradition, Achievement, Customers, Efficiency, Control, Responsibility
Case Study: Ford Motor Company is an introverted organization that takes its energy from its own ideas and experiences and relies on a largely internal frame of reference. It’s a preference that traces its roots to the irascible Henry Ford, who stamped his likeness on the organization and jealously guarded his prerogatives throughout the first 50 years of the company’s existence.
"You Can Count on Us" (ISFJ)
Values: Customer, Responsibility, Tradition, Loyalty, Quality, Harmony, Control, Family
Case Study: Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, which provides human services. MetLife’s introverted character is revealed in its serious, traditional and insulated sense of itself. Established in 1868, the company has occupied a landmark building in midtown Manhattan for generations. Its paneled boardroom has been the scene of MetLife’s most important discussions for more than 100 years.
"Playing By the Rules" (ESTJ)
Values: Logic, Efficiency, Tradition, Achievement, Accuracy, Caution, Predictability
Case Study: IBM and Eastman Kodak (as well as many manufacturing firms and organizations that rely on systems management, scheduling and contract fulfillment) embody faith in common sense, order and professionalism. The origins of IBM illustrate the strong influence of external factors on this type. Tradition — habits and belief that have proven effective over time — play a guiding role. While no stranger to innovation, this type is committed to rigorous evaluation and market research.
"Doing the Right Thing" (ESFJ)
Values: Customer, Community, Teamwork, Dependability, Harmony, Family, Fun, Loyalty, Efficiency, Integrity, Tradition
Case Study: Proctor & Gamble has a sterling reputation for compassionate management and corporate integrity. Policies designed to improve the experience of workers and satisfy the interests of worker’s union date back to the 1880s. The sensing preference can be traced in reliance on polling and market research for planning and assessment.
These 4 styles thrive on action and are not averse to taking risks. Change is fun and no problem is insurmountable.
"Action, Action — We Want Action" (ISTP)
Values: Excellence, Autonomy, Quality, Efficiency, Logic, Spontaneity, Independence, Risk taking, Integrity, Challenge
Case Study: Home Depot embodies the grit and drive of the Action organization — introverted, sensing, thinking and perceiving. The original management team of Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank had recently been fired and were in search of a business opportunity. Believing in their vision of a no-frills do-it-yourself emporium, Marcus and Blank drew on their inner resources of determination and ingenuity to build the country’s largest hardware chain.
"Working to Make a Difference" (ISFP)
Values: Excellence, Action, Harmony, Personal dignity, Hard work, Cooperation
Case Study: The authors of the book note that they have yet to come across an adequate representative of the "Working to Make a Difference" organization. [Jan 2012: a suggestion by a reader of itstime.com: Habitat for Humanity]
"Thriving on Risky Business" (ESTP)
Values: Logic, Fun, Spontaneity, Risk taking, Autonomy, Challenge, Hands-on Experience
Case Study: Winnebago Industries draws its energy from the outer world of people and activity, a preference that was manifested openly in the events surrounding its establishment in 1958. Citizens of Forest City, Iowa, concerned that their children were leaving home in order to find jobs, were determined to find a company to open a local facility. The success of this quest has recreated Forest City as a quintessential company town and guaranteed that Winnebago operates with an eye to the strengths, limitation and desires of the local population.
"We Aim to Please" (ESFP)
Values: Customer, Spontaneity, Fun, Excellence, Equality, Harmony
Case Study: Mary Kay Cosmetics is committed to direct sales, primarily occurring through small gatherings of potential customers in social settings. More than any major company in the world, Mary Kay is committed to the cause of women’s empowerment. Founder Mary Kay Ash, whose homespun wisdom continues to provide the moral foundation of the organization even after her death, urged sales representatives to think of everyone they met as wearing a sign that read, "Make me feel important."
These 4 personality types are highly interpersonal, sharing a tendency to subjectively evaluate concepts and abstract ideas. They are people-focused with warm work environments that value harmony.
"Vision Driven by Values" (INFJ)
Values: Innovation, Learning, Harmony, Sensitivity, Commitment, Insight
Case Study: Johnson & Johnson’s careful definition of its responsibilities as an organization — enumerated in the company’s 100-year-old corporate credo — defines its work as a worthy end in itself and ranks the needs of employees, communities and stockholders below it. This preference is at the core of the R&D philosophy at J&J, captured by Robert Wood Johnson’s famous statement that "failure is our most important product."
"Quest for Meaningful Work" (INFP)
Values: Innovation, Community, Diversity, Teamwork, Fun, Harmony, Integrity, Insight, Sensitivity
Case Study: Unlike every other computer on the market, Apple Computer’s machines operate using proprietary software. For Apple users, this separation from the mainstream provides the foundation for a vibrant and insulated computer community. Company founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak transformed a hobbyist’s technology into an essential tool for office work and self-expression.
"It’s Fun to Do Good Work" (ENFP)
Values: Cooperation, Diversity, Teamwork, Fun, Innovation, Integrity, Harmony, Creativity, Equality, Relationships, Freedom
Case Study: Xerox Corporation’s extroverted character is best conveyed by its history of intimate partnerships with independent and subsidiary firms. Well before Xerox was a success, it joined with an inventor at the Battelle Memorial Scientific Institute to develop the revolutionary process behind Xerox photocopying. Years later, Xerox created a largely independent think tank, Xerox PARC in Palo Alto, to manage special research projects.
"Seeing the Big Picture in Human Terms" (ENFJ)
Values: Relationships, Creativity, Structure, Teamwork, Uniqueness, Harmony, Integrity.
Case Study: Southwest Airlines is highly attuned to conditions in its industry and the nature of the competition. Southwest is the model of an organization with intuitive information-gathering preferences, focused on the big picture. The discount ticket itself was a brilliant and risk innovation that defied the popular wisdom of the prevailing price structure. Southwest’s commitment to people — especially its employees — is one of the most visible characteristics of the organization. Longtime CEO and founder Herb Kelleher is an outrageous, charismatic champion whose fierce determination propelled his company into the top ranks.
These 4 types are linked by their emphasis on valuing competence and setting high standards. These are companies that ruthlessly pursue perfection, constantly testing the status quo and conceptualizing change.
"Going All Out for Greatness" (INTJ)
Values: Learning, Logic, Innovation, Achievement, Competence, Independence, Pragmatism, Uniqueness, What could be
Case Study: Nike’s well-known slogan — "Just Do It" — encapsulates the decisiveness and self-confidence of the intuitive type. With its appreciation of the big picture, the fledgling company ventured fearlessly into the uncharted market for athletic shoes in the 1970s, and Nike leadership pioneered new markets and techniques in subsequent decades. Part of the company’s reliance on intuition pushes Nike shoes and gear to the cutting edge of fashion and technology.
"In Pursuit of Intellectual Solutions" (INTP)
Values: Learning, Logic, Curiosity, Achievement, Creativity, Independence
Case Study: KFC Corporation, purveyor of Kentucky Fried Chicken, traces its origins to the ambition of the company’s founder, Colonel Harland Sanders of Corbin, Kentucky. Like Colonel Sanders, who went into business at the age of 65 as a means to supplement his Social Security check, owners of KFC franchises are the operational and emotional engines of the organization. At KFC, the top-secret combination of ingredients and cooking methods has mad the difference for more than 50 years. KFC is committed to open debate, criticism and impartial standards.
"If We Can’t Do It, No One Can" (ENTP)
Values: Intelligence, Creativity, Improvisation, Innovation, Logic, Learning, Efficiency, Excellence, Risk taking
Case Study: Atari Corporation has been recently resurrected as a division of the French company, Infogrames. Atari’s founder Nolan Bushnell made the improbably intellectual connection between the capacities of the high-tech Defense Department computer systems and computer-simulated action appropriate for games. No kind of market research could have predicted the incredible success of Pong, a computer version of tennis, which was Atari’s first commercial product.
"Driven to Lead" (ENTJ)
Values: Intelligence, Logic, Efficiency, Excellence, Learning, Instinct, Innovation
Case Study: America Online, the lead component of AOL Time Warner during the merger of the two giant media firms in 2001 and afterward, provides a classic illustration of the decisiveness of the "Driven to Lead" type. AOL managed to transform its high stock price into hard currency with the purchase of Time Warner shares at bargain rates. The personality preferences at work demonstrate the wellsprings of AOL’s business vigor. The company sees itself as deeply integrated into the AOL community of national and international network of Internet users.
In addition to company culture, the book provides a questionnaire to identify your leadership style, followed by methods for identifying your company values and putting them to work in alignment with your company’s personality.
Excerpted from the book: Companies are People Too, by Sandra Fekete © 2003 Published by John Wiley & Sons, www.wiley.com, used by permission of the publisher.
[An aside, in case anyone wants to know, our company is ENFP - "It's Fun To Do Good Work"]
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