The current discussions over whether saving the auto industry on both sides of the border is worth it or not has inspired me to thinking about the relationship of the components of culture to performance. It has been noted that what we need to save is not the industry as a whole but the “Big 3” companies that have experienced several decades of trouble despite multiple injections of cash at the expense of taxpayers. I think it is worth exploring how culture has influenced the performance specific to these three.

I offer the questions below to fuel a conscious discussion about the relationship of culture and the long term /sustainable performance of the organization where the culture lives:

  1. What beliefs have fed the performance of these organizations?
  2. How stable and supported have those beliefs been?
  3. Have they been checked on a regular basis for course correction?
  4. Are the organizations concerned about the beliefs, not just as stated but also as realized in the day-to-day, mid and long term behaviours of the organizations?
  5. Have the beliefs of the subcultures interplayed dynamically like fitting puzzle pieces together?
  6. What is the relationship between beliefs held by the organizations, their sub-cultures (e.g. management and unions), their community and local geo-ethnic context (i.e. cities, towns, counties, provinces) and the national/sub-continental (North America) economies?
  7. Is it time to consider moving the discussion beyond retooling, effectiveness/efficiency initiatives and financial profit to the meaning that touches those that contribute to and those who benefit from the wellbeing of the Big 3?

Many have written about the “values” component of a culture; we need also to review the “beliefs” component. These both are equally important cultural aspects; I am reminded that a culture is the canvas or sand box where these two things interact.