Organizational DNA is defined as the underlying factors that together define an organization’s “personality” and help explain its performance.
Corporate DNA or organizational DNA is a metaphor based on the biological term DNA, the molecule that encodes the genetic instructions in living organisms. Everything that a cell is and does comes from its DNA. The DNA informs and directs everything that happens to each cell in our bodies and through these cells directs what happens to the entire organism. Organizations behave like organisms. Every single organization has a DNA. That DNA determines the direction of the organization and everything that the organization does. However, it does so within a constantly changing environment. If you are starting an organization and are tasked with describing and writing your organizational DNA, it’s important to remember that the DNA has to remain fairly constant even when times and circumstances are changing as the DNA is the organization’s purpose, calling, core beliefs and values that bind an organization together. Strategy is not part of the DNA of an organization, it is constantly changing (as it should) to adapt to changing times. Some people consider the organization’s vision to be part of the DNA of the organization. That’s possible but there are many limitations to that. For example, one can with the same purpose, calling, core beliefs and values come up with many different visions for the organization. Organizations that fulfill their visions often don’t have to shut down.