Building Pathways to Success
Understanding Your Company’s History
Imagine if you will, a person that has had a positive impact on your life; perhaps a parent, grandparent, teacher, minister. Think about experiences you shared with that person, in what ways they influenced your life, and shaped your core values.
Now, imagine if you lost touch with that person. Would you just forget about that person and everything they brought to your life? Of course not. That person will always be in your memory, not to mention your heart. They will always influence the decisions you make in life, whether it is business, personal, or ethical. As you think about critical decisions that may change the course of you life, you will find yourself reflecting on how that person reacted when faced with difficult situations. What would you do if you no longer had the memory of shared experiences with that person? What past experiences would you draw upon?
Companies, like people, should never sever their historical roots. Our history gives us a sense of who we are, where we have been, and where we are going. As you become aware of your corporate heritage, it will allow you to pass on wisdom from one generation to another; what past leadership did right or wrong, in what areas they succeeded, and how they bounced back from bad choices.
It is often said that we learn from our past experiences. Why not apply that to corporate life? Perhaps your company has dealt with some serious issues in the past, such as downsizing, a merger that went wrong, or a product that failed. There can also be positive major events that occurred in your company’s history that turned out to be successful. If companies learn the signs along the way, they can turn their organizational experience into action.
In today’s corporate culture, companies are making decisions with little regard for their history. Perhaps we need to get back to the basics, focusing on what worked in the past, and apply that to corporate planning. Your company’s history should be researched and used as a foundation on which to build upon. It should promote discussion amongst managers and employers, not to mention a sense of unity in working together towards a greater vision for the company.
Important questions you should be asking yourself are: Where is the future of your company headed? How do you feel when you are wrestling with important decisions? Where do your companies values come from? What are the values that you hold most dear, and in what ways have they guided you?
Max De Pree, retired Chairman of Herman Miller, speaks about the need for leaders to be aware of they’re obligations and the need to leave a legacy, not just for their community, but for their colleagues, customers, and future leadership as well. He writes, “The future is turned on the lathe of the past.”
As we become aware of our corporate heritage, we will be more able to pass on accumulated wisdom from one generation to the next. It is a successful tool in transferring knowledge about what works and what doesn’t. Companies that have begun to put this concept into practice are seeing results. They are better able to develop new strategies, control costs, and improve work relations. They are using their history to define who they are today, and to get back to their core values that shaped the organization in the first place, and examine how those values apply today. Do not let your organization loose its corporate memory; the benefits are numerous. It can serve as an important source of information for the development of future leadership.