BOOK REVIEW: “Leverage: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture” by John R. Childress (2013)

Leverage: The CEO's Guide to Corporate Culture by John R. Childress Defining corporate culture and its impact on strategy has become a major area in academic research and in the world of consultancy. John Childress’ book, which is entertaining and gives many examples, tries to outline exactly what culture is and how this can be dealt with on a day to day basis.

Key words:

Corporate culture, leadership, organization, management, employees, subculture

Summary:

John Childress

Childress investigates social aspects within corporations and decribes their influences

Childress is a management consultant and clearly has a good understanding of what culture is and its impact on the results of a company. He gives some nice examples of disasters within companies due to their culture not being aligned with their strategy. Carly Fiorina failed as the CEO of Hewlett Packard because she tried to impose a sales driven culture in an organization that was largely dominated by engineers who simply did not understand what the CEO was trying to achieve. This is an excellent lesson in the fact that performance is not just a question of having a top-down strategy that is imposed by senior management. In fact, the rank and file of an organization and employees of all levels have a big role to play in ensuring that the company performs well.

One of Childress’ big contributions is pointing out that often managers and bosses possess ambitious plans in changing the culture of an organization. Unfortunately, this rarely works. In fact, companies that have managed to change their culture have done so by making small changes and consistently driving them forward on a day-to-day basis. Of course, this is not quite as sexy as the grandiose plan, but it is much more effective.

The book is also highly entertaining in that it gives many diagrams to make the notion of corporate culture easier to understand. In one graph, it shows just how unpopular Ryanair is with a 35 to 40 percent negative rating in a Yougov poll. This has not stopped the company from becoming highly successful. Culture can be very important in ensuring that the alignment between strategy and culture is adequately executed and will make a major contribution to the success of a company.

BBC interviews Google’s employees about corporate culture
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_R3XG7s2hw

Interesting quotes:

“Carly Fiona, the celebrity CEO of Hewlett-Packard was fired for trying to turn a culture of “technical excellence” to “sales culture.” It was a change too far and HP culture was too strong.”

“CEOs can talk and blab all day about culture, but the employees know who the jerks are. – Jack Welch”

“Warren Buffett, one of the more savvy investors of the past three decades, made a bold and profound statement in a recent annual letter to the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders: “Culture, more than rule books, determines how an organization behaves.”

“The culture of the factory is its customary and traditional way of thinking and of doing things, which is shared to a greater or lesser extent by all its members, and which new members must learn, and at least partially accept, in order to be accepted into service in the firm.”

“MIT Professor Edgar Schein (often referred to as the father of corporate culture) put culture on a more solid academic footing when he published Organizational Culture and Leadership in 1985.”

“Booz Allen Hamilton, along with The Aspen Institute conducted a global survey in 2005 with 9500 senior executives. They found that 89% of the companies surveyed had written values statements.”

“They found that 89% of the companies surveyed had written values statements.”

“Your brand is formed primarily, not by what your company says about itself, but what the company does. – Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon”

“Another problem with so many experts writing about culture is the confusion between corporate culture and climate.”

“I believe it makes good sense for the senior executives to look closely at the business processes they are using internally. What I suspect you will find is that many of them are “legacy processes” developed some time ago when business conditions are different and might just be fostering a set of behaviours counter to the culture you now require.”

“The Netflix culture deck, titled Netflix Culture, Freedom and Responsibility, published on the web (Hastings, 2013) has over 4 million viewings and Facebook likes. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, called it “the most important document ever to come out of Silicon Valley.”

“People don’t resist change. They resist changed! – Peter Senge”

“75% of what people want from work is NOT pay related!”

“When you hear the word “merger of equals”, grab your wallet and run!”

 

See more book reviews:

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Made-to-Stick cover

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Filed under Book Review, Business, Corporate Behavior, Culture, Ethics, Leadership, Management, Strategy

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