Success, failure and the drum corps culture

by John Dunne, DCW staff

In my “real” life, I”m a lecturer for a private college in Singapore, teaching various classes in marketing and management.

A few months ago, one of my students, a young man from Indonesia, asked me the following question: “Does success or failure help shape an organization”s culture over time?”

By “organizational culture,” we are talking about the system of shared meaning held by members of that organization that distinguishes one organization from another. It is a mix of   values, attitudes, policies, beliefs and traditions. Essentially, one may think of “organizational   culture” as being the organization”s personality.

I thought my student”s question was quite good and I gave him my own answer in class. However, I was curious as to how others would answer the same question, especially from the context of the drum corps activity. I decided to e-mail a number of corps directors this question and the following are the responses I received, in no particular order:

I would definitely say “yes,” that success does help shape the culture of any organization. Your own success breeds success. Failure is a result of a lack of foresight and seeing beyond the current existence of any program. If you allow obstacles to lead your future, you will never get ahead. Therefore, thrive on the positives and have a plan or plans to always allow development of the current and future of your programs.
— Peter LaFlamme, Spartans, Nashua, NH

Success AND failure both shape the culture . . . if the culture has been set up in such a way as to benefit from both. Our organization has been fortunate enough to learn and adapt quickly when we have fallen short; and we’ve been able to position ourselves to learn from our successes and use those successes to fuel the next phase of our journey.

We’ve always prided ourselves in being “big picture” people. We realize that one year of success doesn”t pay the bills the following year (literally or figuratively) . . . so we”ve adapted an “excellence in all things” approach in continuing to expand the vision of our program.

So far it seems to be working. We try many things, so we can fail faster and learn (and grow) faster as well.
— Bob Jacobs, Jersey Surf, Berlin, NJ

Read the rest of this article in the May 2004 issue of Drum Corps World.