Schein (1999), quoted in Klein et al. (2005), stipulates that corporate or organizational culture study aims at understanding how a particular organization and the personnel running the organization think, understand, and interpret the objectives and set goals of the corporation and the strategies that they use to achieve those goals. Eccles et al. (2011) define corporate culture as the overall accepted but invisible assumptions that have become ingrained with the members of the organization. This paper narrows the scope of analysis down to two companies which have been recognized as global players and competitors in the world of computing. These are Microsoft Corporation and Apple Inc.
Microsoft Corporation, an American based corporation deals in the development, manufacture, licensing, and the sale of a variety of products that are related to computer technology. The company was founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen and has grown to become a worldwide brand and giant in the computing world. Microsoft Corporation mainly deals in software technology, particularly operating systems. The company is based in Redmond (Microsoft Corp. website, n.d).
The corporate culture at Microsoft Corporation
The corporate structure at Microsoft Corporation is very liberal and relaxed. At first glance, the company may appear to lack a culture but on a closer perspective, you realize that the culture present here is rich and very outspoken. This ‘liberalism’ of culture is identifiable right from the moment one walks into an interview room at Microsoft Corporation. The kind of atmosphere hiding in the buildings of Microsoft is rather relaxed. The kind of questions that one is asked at the interviews is also an indicator of the relaxed culture. For example, according to Wu (2009), it is not abnormal to hear questions such as ‘why is a manhole round?’ asked at an interview in Microsoft corporation.
The culture emphasis is more on the recognition of talent in contrast to image rigidity. Employees are allowed to wear casual clothes and have flexible working hours. Projects here are delivered in team work. A lot of emphasis is given on research. A huge panel of talented employees embark on research day in, day out. Also, another thing that distinguishes the company from others is the lack of favor or discrimination in employment. A number of disabled but talented people have been recruited as part of Microsoft Corporation’s team.
Apple Inc is another American company that is also involved in the research, development, manufacture and sale of both computers software and hardware. The company was started in 1976. The main products from the company include the iPhone, iPad, and iPod, as well as the Mac computer (Apple Inc website, n.d). The company headquarters are based in California.
The corporate culture of Apple Inc
If the corporate culture of Microsoft is considered as relaxed, then the culture at Apple Inc can only be termed as ‘loose’. The company is not predisposed to the traditionalist cultural systems, such as those of other companies like IBM. As the matter of fact, the employees here are encouraged to be ‘relaxed’ and this was well set forth by the company’s then CEO Steve Jobs, who used to walk the hallways of the company barefooted. Formal attire is not insisted upon and employees are at liberty to wear what they wish.
Like Microsoft Corporation, the main catch and concern of the company is talent and research. Team work is highly emphasized and a team of engineers work on a particular project till completion before embarking on another project. The language of communication in the company is also highly informal and full of jargon. The employees in the company are highly specialized and they conduct daily research on the concepts and areas of their expertise making them very experienced, highly qualified and knowledgeable. Also, the company has developed the Apple Fellows Program to reward and recognize the employees who have contributed significantly in one way or the other to the attainment of the company’s objectives.
Ways in which each unique culture has benefitted by the other’s competition
According to John Sculley, a former CEO of the company, Apple Inc uses a no compromise approach to their product development (Apple Inc website, n.d). There is no room for errors and before a product is launched into the market, they make sure that it is absolutely perfect. Microsoft Corporation has adopted a more relaxed approach. According to Bill Gates, the founder and former CEO, the company can allow some margin for errors and products may be launched into the market and modifications made according to the clients’ responses.
These two approaches have seen both companies benefit from each other in a number of ways.
Some clients appreciate perfected products and they opt to go to the company known for not compromising that aspect, Hence, this leads to Apple Inc benefitting at the expense of Microsoft Corporation.
On the other hand, some clients find it invaluable that they are allowed to experiment with products and offer their opinion on what is to be altered or upgraded to bring about a perfect product in the end. These customers will opt to go for Microsoft’s product as opposed to those of Apple Inc.
Corporate culture change and its impact
If the corporate culture of these two companies was changed, a number of adjustments would need to be made for the companies to thrive in future. In the case of Microsoft, the transit of culture, say from the liberal to more formal one, might lead to lower morale at the company, since most of the employees are youthful and vibrant.
If emphasis was drawn from research and development to sales and revenue generation, the company would cease to retain its significance in the future. This is a research-based corporation that relies on keeping up with the modern trends and demands of the market.
The same would apply to Apple. A move from the casual and relaxed culture at the office would lead to the lower morale.
If a move was to be made from the high specialization to becoming more rounded, most workers would lose their touch and become redundant in the company. Also, just like Microsoft Corporation, the company cannot afford to have a corporate change from the research mode to emphasis on sales and revenue collection. To be able to retain its image, brand and effectiveness in the future, the company must keep conducting extensive research.
The corporate structures of these two giants have a lot of similarities. The differences of culture of these two companies have not made them become any less endeared in the market. The corporate structures that are fostered by these companies are fundamental in enabling them to become global leaders and competitors in the world of computing.