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Organizational Culture and Leadership, 5th Edition by Peter Schein, Edgar H. Schein

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3A YOUNG AND GROWINGXS U.S. ENGINEERING ORGANIZATION

How culture works and how to analyze and assess cultural phenomena is best illustrated through cases that represent different stages of organizational evolution. In this chapter I review the case of an organization that I was fortunate enough to encounter in its youth and able to follow through its entire life cycle. At one level this is an “old” case from the 1960s, but the culture dynamics I encountered then continue to be visible in companies that I observed in recent years and seem to characterize technically based start-ups.

Case 1: Digital Equipment Corporation in Maynard, Massachusetts

Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) was the first major company to introduce interactive computing in the mid-1950s, and it became a very successful manufacturer of what came to be called “mini computers.” It was located primarily in the northeastern part of the United States, with headquarters in an old mill in Maynard, Massachusetts, but it had branches throughout the world. At its peak, it employed more than 100,000 people, with sales of $14 billion. In the mid-1980s it became the second largest computer manufacturer in the world after IBM. The company ran into major financial difficulties in the 1990s and was eventually sold to the Compaq Corp. in 1998. Compaq was in turn acquired by Hewlett-Packard in 2001.

There were innumerable stories written about why and how DEC “failed,” but few of them provided a cultural perspective on either ...

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