As organisations become large and mature drift can set in…

What do I mean by drift?

The culture that you initially created when the organisation was small and manageable, becomes muddy and blurred, and the things that made your organisation great (in other people’s eyes) no longer happen in the way they once did.

Steven Mandis story ‘What Happened to Goldman Sachs’ is a great example of organisational drift.

And Mandis is the perfect person to tell it, as he worked at Goldman Sachs for 12 years, and then became a client of theirs through his global alternative asset management firm.

Goldman Sachs is an investment bank and financial services company, which grew through a partnership structure, that governed the principles and ethics of the business.

But the drive to become a global business brought pressures, that forced Goldman to slowly drift away from the very principles which made it stand out from competitors.

After decades of debate among the partners and probably a large factor in the drift, the company became a public company via an initial public offering in May 1999.

This changed the structure and dynamics of the organisation, and brought in outside pressures, making the organisation behave in different ways then pre-IPO.

Since, Goldman has been criticized for a lack of ethical standards, working with dictatorial regimes, cosy relationships with the US federal government and driving up prices of commodities through futures speculation.

Mandis details the original values that made Goldman great, citing the pressures of growth, which made it divert away from these values and it’s partnership culture, causing the drift.

It’s a decent read, giving you real insight into what can happen to an organisations culture as it grows to become a global business.

‘What Happened to Goldman Sachs’ gets a thumbs up and four stars.

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