Behind all the structures and policies are the symbols that are placed on organizations. Symbols come together to form the corporate culture, that “way of doing things” that drives a team. They may be the values that employees hold dear or the meaning that keeps them going back to work every day.
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz brought a cultural revival to the company after visiting many of the stores around 2007. The Starbucks culture and experience had changed after the company began using new espresso machines that blocked the customers’ view of the baristas. This and other changes commoditized the Starbucks experience and made the company feel less like a local coffee shop. In a memo Schultz wrote, “We desperately need to get back to the core and make the changes necessary to evoke the heritage, the tradition, and the passion that we all have for the true Starbucks Experience.”
Such a rallying cry was symbolic but had a practical effect as the company adopted a new strategy and had a reenergized workforce. The company had been in a two-year decline, but began to earn record revenues and profits after this new vision was implemented. Employees want a bit of magic in their leaders, who can bring forth the company’s sprit and values as Schultz was able to do.