Culture wars to move to the boardroom in 2019


2018 could go down as the year when many of Australia’s corporate and political elite had their ‘Rosebud moment’.

Too many leaders tried to rationalise poor decisions and behaviours – either made or permitted by them – against our broader social / economic systems and cultures they failed to grasp were of their own creation.

Excuses such as ‘capitalism made us do it’ by senior leaders who fronted the banking and finance Royal Commission were instructive and tough to reconcile since so many of their Boards continued to payout disproportionate executive bonuses despite suffering significant corporate reputational damage.

The Board of Cricket Australia (CA) published a bumper off a long run with its excellent ‘A Matter of Balance’ report which concluded the CA leadership failed to apply “appropriate sanctions, including the absence of ‘call out culture’, [which] … allowed behaviour by players and coaches to diverge from community standards.”

Whilst the main administrative protagonists in that saga are now back in the pavilion, there has been little acknowledgment from any of them of the role they played in permitting and amplifying a ‘win-at-all-costs’ culture that has been growing in Australian cricket for decades.

Australian politics fared no better, continuing its ‘fall of man’ re-enactment, felling another prime minister and shining a light on a culture of sex and power in state and national politics that has spread across the political divide. 

Senior figures in our judiciary, the commentariat, the affected and the disempowered, are all pointing to the need for our corporate and political leaders to create and protect operating cultures that meet community expectations.

Reimaging the cultures of our largest and most storied institutions in the corporate, political and sporting world will be the raison d’etre for many corporate affairs leaders in 2019. Implementing these reimagined cultures will be a tour de force that could take years.

It will require courage from leaders who are prepared to challenge existing systemic and operational norms, calling out unethical or unprincipled behaviour, recognising what can and what ought to be responsibly done by the organisation.

At SenateSHJ we apply effective frameworks necessary to identify and define corporate purpose, values and principles that are used to guide organisational decision-making.

The purpose explains why an organisation exists in relation to its place in society and its importance to all stakeholders. The corporate values define and order the organisation’s priorities, and the principles (sometimes covenants) regulate the means employed by the organisation to deliver its priorities.

A year of corporate and organisational introspection resulting in a newly created culture that meets the expectations of society is long overdue. Let’s hope 2019 brings the changes that are so sorely needed.