Values into vision
A Syngenta case study

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Page 4: How values drive culture

Syngenta 17 Image 6A company’s values give everything it does relative importance. For example, one company may be driven by costs. Saving money becomes the first consideration when decisions need to be made. Another company may focus on building its reputation. Delighting the customer is then the job of everyone. These are different values and over time they create different business cultures.

Defining organisational culture

Culture can be summed up by the phrase 'the way things are done here.' Culture shows itself in different patterns of behaviour and different ways of responding to the various stakeholder groups.

Behaviours that influence the organisation’s culture may seem trivial but are highly symbolic. Does the company encourage its people to talk to each other, to share ideas and find solutions? Does it recognise and reward good ideas and achievement? Is it aiming to reduce travel costs by using teleconferencing and internet meetings? Is re-cycling a priority? Answers to questions like these can indicate whether it believes in true equality or encourages its people to ‘think outside the box’.

Cultures take time to make but once established they are surprisingly powerful and resilient. This has special importance at Syngenta as the business was formed in 2000 from earlier companies that had different identities and therefore cultures. Syngenta has been working hard to reinforce its chosen core values and make them central to its culture.

Handy's culture types (1978)

The theorist Charles Handy identified four main types of culture.

Power culture - where power is concentrated in a leader or top management team. Quite informal and flexible, it allows trusted staff to get on with the job.
Role culture - where authority is arranged in a hierarchy and power depends on formal status. Many rules and procedures can make change difficult. Most often seen in large bureaucratic organisations.
Task culture - is purpose- and project-driven with leadership based on expertise for the task in hand. Often copes well with rapid change but may lack overall cohesion.
Person culture - stresses the individual's right to make decisions with shared rules only for mutual benefit. Effective for professionals and independent workers such as lawyers but may break up as conditions change.

Recognising achievement

Syngenta 17 Image 3To demonstrate Syngenta’s belief in its people, it has a scheme called the Syngenta Awards. These recognise and celebrate the company's values in action. All staff are actively encouraged to put forward relevant stories concerning how they achieved success in a project. Not only are those involved in these stories rewarded at a ceremony but they are also shared across the company as a source of ideas and inspiration. It is culture in the making.

For example, Humphrey Kiruaye, a trained agricultural advisor, is a Syngenta sales manager in Kenya. As well as marketing improved seeds and crop protection products, he helps local farmers adopt best practice for yields and safety. He helped a farmer build a water storage pond for irrigation and showed him how to reduce the amount of water he used without affecting his healthy crops. The farm became a teaching centre for local growers and now includes chemical storage and disposal systems, beehives for better pollination and fish in the storage pond.

Syngenta | Values into vision