Family Business Culture: The difference between votes and surveys

Family Business
min Article
Carl Azar
January 12, 2022
2 min
Family Business
Executive Summary
Some explanatory elements in our white paper "Truth, Lies and Surveys" with its possible applications in family businesses.


The culture of family businesses is often cited as a strong and singular identity, a real intangible advantage for dealing with unforeseen events and adapting to a world in perpetual change, thanks to a strong and stable base of values.  

It is difficult to describe an organization's culture in an exhaustive and qualitative way, especially in family groups: culture is more implicit than explicit, and many HR directors of family businesses say that an important part of their role is to "make the implicit explicit". Gérard Hirigoyen, president of the Center for Research on Family and Entrepreneurial Enterprises (CREFE), also speaks of a "silent language" about these cultures.

At Russell Reynolds Associates, we view an organization's culture as a combination of the personal values of its leaders (the top tone) and the beliefs, behaviors, and perceptions of its employees (the bottom tone). 

Our firm innovates in the field of corporate culture survey methodology. The approach is based on advanced statistics and the possibility of so-called random responses that make the employees’ individual responses completely anonymous and untraceable, like a secret ballot rather than a survey response. 

This methodology provides employees with psychological security and allows them to bring out the unspoken in a much more explicit way than traditional surveys.

You can read the details in Truth, lies, and surveys.

This innovation is particularly relevant for measuring sensitive issues such as ethics, safety, or commitment to diversity, for example.

In family groups, it can also be useful on sensitive or even taboo subjects, questioning the style of a family leader for example, or the "founder myth". But after a few generations, it is sometimes necessary.