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Why You Should Understand Your Organization's DNA

Scientific Research Publishing Inc. found that “A company’s success or failure in the marketplace today is often not a matter of strategy; it is a function of execution. And execution is the product of organizational DNA.” (1)

Daniel Coyle says, “Culture is not about words or what you talk about; Culture is about behaviors and actions.”

Every Company has a unique DNA

Every organization’s beliefs, values, and practices stem from its DNA. A company’s culture gives it personality, and staying true to its original DNA makes it successful.

David DeStafano describes it this way, “Organizational DNA is defined as the underlying factors that together define an organization’s “personality” and help explain its performance. (2)

In this context, it’s an organization’s DNA that designs its culture and behaviors; it’s what makes that company unique.

Like any living organism, DNA holds the instructions required for living, proper formation, purpose, and reproduction. “Shift thinking,” Chief Epiphany Officer Mark Bonchek says, These are what inform each component of the organization and live through each person that helps make up the organizational whole.” (3)

  • Our DNA determines the areas of our giftedness.

  • We cannot do whatever we wish and expect to function at a high level with excellence. (Organizations are no different)

  • knowing what we are naturally gifted in aligns us with our purpose (DNA).

DNA and the Family Line

Think of your company’s DNA as a cultural fingerprint, it’s how the public identifies it. Your organization’s character, protocols, and competencies are the fingerprints they leave behind on all it touches.

Like families, an organization’s culture (DNA) can be passed on to future employees for generations; This is what allows businesses to flourish for decades and some for centuries.

  • An organization’s DNA is developed early in its planning stage.

  • It represents its founders’ vision, values, ethics, and character.

  • Its culture remains intact by allowing for flexibility in a changing society.

  • Organizational DNA can be passed down for generations, thus, maintaining the continuity of its corporate culture.

Preserving an organization’s DNA is vital when thinking generationally


When I think of Nordstrom, I think of excellent customer service. Nordstrom was founded by John W. Nordstrom and Carl F. Wallin in 1901.

The secret to Nordstrom’s longevity is maintaining the integrity of its company culture.

  • Excellence in customer service is in Nordstrom’s DNA.

  • Providing an outstanding customer experience is always priority one.

  • Empowering employees to make good decisions in all situations.

  • Employees are encouraged to deliver beyond customer expectations daily.

L.L. Bean

A winter wear company founded in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean, it stayed true to its DNA

  • Focused primarily on hunting footwear

  • Expanded to outdoor apparel

  • Continues under private ownership

  • During the pandemic, sales of their winter sportswear rose more than 150%

Many large and small companies have been around for more than 100 years and are still profitable. These organizations weathered cultural shifts, economic turbulence, and societal transitions by staying true to their organizational DNA.

In Conclusion

Many leaders attempt turning companies around strategically without understanding its organizational DNA. Peter Drucker is correct in saying, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Alignment with your organizational (DNA) will always determines your level of success.

End Notes

(1) Scientific Research Publishing Inc

(2) What is organizational DNA, and why does it matter? David DeStafano

(3) How to Discover Your Company’s DNA, Mark Bonchek

*** This article was authored by John Picarello, Chief Leadership Officer at Lions Pride Leadership Co. ***

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