In this episode I had an absolute pleasure to host Mary Jo Hatch and Philip Mirvis. Mary Jo is an internationally distinguished scholar of organization studies (cited more than 33300 times!) and Professor Emerita, University of Virginia. Her research has been focused on such topics as organizational culture, identity, branding, etc. She is the author of many books, such as “Organization Theory: Modern, Symbolic and Postmodern Perspectives”, “The Expressive Organization: Linking Identity, Reputation and the Corporate Brand” (co-edited with M. Schultz and M. H. Larsen) and “Organization Identity: A Reader” (co-edited with M. Schultz), and “The Three Faces of Leadership: Manager, Artist, Priest” (with M. Kostera and A. Kozminski). Philip is an organizational psychologist whose research and private practice concerns large-scale organizational change, the character of the workforce and workplace, and role of business in society. Our paths crossed as we all attended the annual Delta Economics Conference at the University of Tartu, Delta School of Management. And I could not pass this amazing opportunity to sit down with Jo and Phil to listen to their incredible stories and experiences from working with various organizations.
“If you ask us which stories come to mind if we think about the influence of a founder on the culture of an organization, then I immediately think about LEGO Group. They have a powerful founder’s story, whereby the founder is kept alive in the minds and hearts of employees for many generations of leadership. Lego was and still is a family owned company, but at some point they brought in management that wasn’t part of the family. And that was a profound change for them. They needed somebody younger to take charge, because the company was getting old and stodgy. The new CEO had already worked for Lego for quite a while; so he knew the culture, he knew the people. And one day somebody from employees came into his office, tapped him on the shoulder and invited him to come to the Lego house. This was the actual place where the founder and founder’s father, who actually was a wooden toy maker, had lived. The house was well preserved, inside of it were a lot of family artefacts. Jorgen Knudstorp, who was the CEO at that time, looked around and said, “You know, I think we could probably do away with this, we can sell this property off and make a little money and who needs this anymore anyway?” But the employee insisted that the CEO would look around a bit. So he started to look at all this stuff, and he sees these hand carved toys, and at some point he finds this sign, hand carved wooden sign that says: ‘the best is never good enough’ or something along those lines. It was in Danish, of course. And suddenly he realizes the connection to the past and what this early founder’s message really meant for the company. The employee who had dragged him over there made him realize that this is something important. So instead of selling the place, he grabs the sign, takes it back to his office and hangs it up by his chair to remind him that this is a company with a very long heritage that is highly appreciated by the employees. And he starts to turn the organization around towards what the place was all about from the beginning. I think that’s an excellent founder story and its profound impact on the culture.”– Mary Jo Hatch
Listen and enjoy!