Bridging Corporate and Startup Culture

by Emily Jasper on November 8, 2010

This post is written over at Forbes Blogs – Work in Progress:

It turns out a corporate culture can include chaos and a startup one can have organized systems in place to produce results. General Electric is sporting some startup culture of its own, and for some reason people forget Google is a global corporation, no longer five people in a rented office. Corporate and startup are more blended than we think, but you yourself are left to be successful in any environment.

As a woman who previously declared herself pro-corporate, in reality I am pro-process. Process can help you focus, and focus leads to results.

When I had been in my sales position, I used to plan ahead as much as possible. “How can you plan ahead in sales?” you ask. You set up priorities around getting the work done now instead of putting it off because you know something urgent will cross your desk with an earlier deadline than anything you already have in the queue. Essentially, you are planning for the fire drills by making yourself available.

If the ducks are already in a row, it’s pretty easy to change their direction.

Fellow blogger Teresa Cantwell shares these same views. Teresa and I both are Gen-Y women who fulfill a lot of the stereotypes: driven for pushing boundaries, passionate about our jobs, hopping from role to role, and embracing networking beyond the office. Our professional paths could practically mirror each other, except that I was in a corporate world and she in a startup. It turns out, things weren’t so different after all, and that’s something our generation is learning.

It isn’t about us vs. them, but work styles that apply in every setting. For example, being able to focus isn’t limited to one office setting, but instead it’s a personal attribute that you need to have to be productive.

“We’re a generation of multitaskers, constantly wearing multiple hats for our job,” said Teresa. “The workplace actually requires you to know when to wear which hat when so you can focus and do those things well instead of trying to do everything poorly.”

Success is required no matter the company. Even if you have 5,000 employees or just 5, you need to answer to the bottom line. How you do that, however, is something that can set you apart. “You have to manage your time so you can produce results,” said Teresa. “You know there is always going to be someone better, but the marketplace is demanding people who can manage their time, projects, and client relationships so at the end of the day, it isn’t chaos but productivity.”

Process makes focus and management much easier for any culture, but the trick is to have a system for modifying process as your business changes. Why fill out a status report with numbers you won’t use? Modify the report so it’s useful and not just busy work. Processes shouldn’t be in place to be roadblocks, but instead they should be there to let you know where the information should go and who makes decisions. You’d be surprised what you can accomplish when you aren’t constantly flying by the seat of your pants.

Take a look at your own company culture. Do you have processes that help you focus? Is there a way to add some structure to your day so you’re better prepared for fire drills? What things could you change for yourself, your team, your department? Take a look, and perhaps your own focus will lead to better results for everyone.

Image by AFP/Getty Images via @daylif