On-premise culture

The boss wants you back in the office. He has a point.

The point is that unless your organization was born fully remote, it is stuck with an on-premise culture. You can try to fight it. But remember what happened the last time a new strategy initiative was launched? Your organizational culture completely dominated the new ideas until you did things the way you had always done them. That is what management guru Peter Drucker meant when he said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

In an on-premise culture, relationships are built through in-person interactions. The exciting projects, the conference trips, and the promotions go to the people seen in the organization. You can argue that’s not fair, but all the leaders in your organization grew up in an on-premise culture.

In an on-premise culture, new ideas germinate from chance encounters. The two Nobel Prize winners in medicine this year met at the copy machine. Both were frustrated that nobody took their ideas about mRNA seriously. They started working together, and their work enabled the coronavirus vaccine.

The fully remote organization is a technologically enabled deviation from how humans have organized themselves for thousands of years. Building the culture that makes such an organization work takes precise and conscious decisions. That goes into its DNA from the founding. You cannot retrofit fully remote onto an on-premise culture.