EE204: Business Management for
Electrical Engineers and Computer Scientists

Company Culture


  1. Organizational Culture, Values and Fit in the Workplace: Making the Right Job Choices (HBS course materials)
  2. Cypress Semiconductor: A Federation of Entrepreneurs (HBS course materials)
  3. Vinod Khosla article about Steve Jobs

Case Summary

In 2011, Cypress Semiconductor was doing well. Their 2010 revenues had grown 32 percent to $884 million, and coupled with diligent cost reduction efforts, their profits before taxes were up nearly 23 percent. In the preceding two years Cypress had eliminated its debt and built up a large cash position. But the semiconductor business was a brutal one demanding both continual cost reductions and innovation. Cypress was a comparatively small player, competing with firms like Samsung that was more than 40 times its size. Cypress founder and CEO, T.J. Rodgers reflected on the challenge of fighting large competitors in a tough environment by saying, "It's all about execution because if you haven't done what you said you were going to do it doesn't matter if you have a good plan or not." In Rodgers' view this meant that to be successful Cypress had to continue to be relentless in driving out costs and be able to generate a stream of new innovations. His solution was to manage Cypress as "a federation of entrepreneurs."

Discussion Questions

  1. What is culture? Is culture currently something you think about when considering career options? What role do core values play in corporate culture?
  2. Complete the first worksheet in the reading. Which values matter most to you?
  3. What is Cypress's hiring process, and what is your reaction to it, as a manager and as a job candidate?
  4. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of Cypress's employee evaluation and compensation systems. What are some of the day-to-day emotions you would have at this company, and what would your feelings be at salary review time?
  5. Does company culture vary by industry? Does company culture vary by company size?
  6. Using specific statements from the case, summarize Cypress's main values and goals. Are they the right goals? Do the values and goals fit with one another? What would you do differently as CEO in order to achieve these goals? How does Cypress's culture facilitate or inhibit innovation?
  7. Describe TJ Rogers's leadership. Is he a nice guy? Consider the Vinod Khosla article. Do Rogers and Steve Jobs share similar traits?
  8. How successful has Cypress been over the past 3 decades? What business factors are most important?
  9. Address the start-up idea. Is this a good system? What do you think about the Strategic Marketing Group located in India?
  10. Complete the second worksheet in the reading. Is Cypress somewhere you would want to work?
  11. Class assignment: Translate your worksheet responses to the surveys below.
    1. TBD
    2. TBD