Cult-Like Cultures

Excerpted from Collins, J.C. and Porras, J.I.  Built to Last: Successful
Habits of Visionary Companies. New York: Harper Collins, 1994.

Orientation and ongoing training programs that have ideological as well as practical content, teaching such things as values, norms, history, and tradition

Internal "universities" and training centers

On-the-job socialization by peers and immediate supervisors

Rigorous up-through-the-ranks policies – hiring young, promoting from within, shaping mindsets from a young age

Exposure to a pervasive mythology of "heroic deeds" and corporate exemplars

Unique language and terminology that reinforce a frame of reference and a sense of belonging to a special, elite group

Corporate songs, cheers, affirmations, or pledges that reinforce psychological commitment

Tight screening processes, during hiring or the first few years

Incentive and advancement criteria explicitly linked to fit with the corporate ideology. Financial "buy-in" mechanisms

Awards, contests, and public recognition for those displaying effort consistent with the ideology.

Tolerance for honest mistakes that do not breach the company’s ideology. Severe penalties or termination for breaching the ideology

Celebrations that reinforce successes, belongingness, specialness

Plant and office layout that reinforces norms and ideals

Constant verbal and written emphasis on corporate values, heritage, and the sense of being part of something special