Developing and Retaining Organizational Culture During Hyper-Growth
Zellers III, Gordon B.
Wooley, Gary L.
Our Capstone project endeavored to support our partner organization, a hyper-growth firm called Li-Cycle Holdings Corporation (Li-Cycle), to assess a strategy to retain its organizational culture through a rapid growth phase. A review of the academic literature revealed that organizational culture can indeed be a strategic advantage as it is linked with organizational performance; however, the research also suggests that fast growing firms’ organizational culture tends to become diluted during rapid organizational growth due to multiple factors. These factors led us to our problem of practice for Li-Cycle, to provide guidance for future-proofing the company’s organizational culture as it grows. Our overarching research question is, “How does Li-Cycle maintain and develop its positive current-state organizational culture as it evolves from a nascent, entrepreneurial start-up firm to a maturing, rapidly growing company?” To answer our research questions, we started by reviewing the existing literature to define organizational culture and explain its demonstrated relationship to organizational performance. We reviewed the challenges of building and retaining organizational culture and discovered unique issues that fast-growing and multinational organizations experience. We then compared how these issues are relevant to Li-Cycle. To investigate Li-Cycle’s culture, we selected a model established in the literature with broad applicability to multiple industries called the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) tool by Cameron & Quinn (2011) which looks at both the current state and a preferred state for the future. We supplemented our survey with several interviews from a cross-section of Li-Cycle employees. Our primary finding is that the current state is focused on its growth phase with gaps in a preferred state reflecting the need to prioritize programs to develop employees and operational structure. Our interviews revealed a priori themes that were anticipated from our academic literature review regarding communication and ongoing dilution of culture due to the scope and scale of new hires, and evidence of developing subcultures within Li-Cycle. These themes illustrate the need for greater cultural balance. A second key finding is that communication throughout Li-Cycle is stymied by a lack of formal structures to share learnings. Based on the findings from the literature and our analysis of the OCAI model, survey, and interviews; our recommendations encourage Li-Cycle to proactively guide the organizational culture in several impactful ways. Our four specific recommendations are: 1. Implement a Community of Practice Model to enable employees to share and communicate new learnings as the company moves from an entrepreneurial phase to one focusing on operational excellence. 2. Train for organizational culture during onboarding and beyond through emphasis on retaining the culture to prevent dilution as the company’s headcount grows. 3. Reconsider the new Return to Office policies to follow the contemporary trends in workplace flexibility. 4. Proactively optimize and balance for organizational culture using the findings from the OCAI model to prioritize the needs of employees and the organization. We were able to satisfactorily answer both of our research questions through investigation of the academic literature, data from the quantitative OCAI survey, and data from the qualitative interviews.