Book Review: The Culture Engine

by Jennifer Miller on September 29, 2014

in Book Review, Leadership, Workplace Issues

Culture Engine Book CoverIn  the foreword of the book The Culture Engine management consultant Ken Blanchard highlights two elements of servant leadership. The first is “strategic leadership” which are practices that outline the “why” of the organization and form the basis of the company’s culture. The second element of servant leadership is “operational leadership” which is the day-to-day actions that leaders take to help their organization’s culture come alive. Both elements are vital to an organization’s success, says Blanchard, and therefore great care must be taken to ensure that both elements are addressed.

Author S. Chris Edmonds, who has worked with Ken Blanchard for over 20 years as a workplace culture expert, has created a comprehensive road map that will help leaders address both the strategic and the operational elements of creating a vibrant, health corporate culture. According to Edmonds, one element does not supersede the other—both must be present in order to drive the kind of change you want to see in your organization.

Throughout the book, Edmonds offers practical advice gleaned from over 30 years of hands-on leadership experience in working to makeover workplace environments. He intersperses real-life anecdotes about leaders and organizations who are doing culture “right” with “how to” templates and actual dialog leaders can use to help the figure out how move their workplace culture from struggling to healthy. Edmonds invests significant time in the first part of the book outlining his case for creating an “organizational constitution” which is a written document that outlines a leader’s purpose, values, strategies and goals.

Now, this might not seem like anything new, and indeed, it isn’t. But according to Edmonds, a surprising number of leaders have not yet done this important work. And, even if your organization (or even your department) has done this heavy lifting, be sure to review Edmond’s templates to ensure you haven’t missed anything.

Then, it’s on to how leaders must “live” their organizational constitution on a daily basis. For me, this is the heart of the book: leaders who consistently model their organizational constitution are the “secret sauce” that separates the mediocre companies from great ones. Edmonds writes, “Companies announce their values but do not hold organization members accountable for demonstrating those desired values each day.” He calls this “management by announcement”, an “infection” that plagues many a well-intentioned organization.

I was privileged to interview Chris prior to his book’s release and I can tell you this: his passion for this topic is evident; there is no “phoning it in” for this guy. His book is thoughtfully organized, thorough in its treatment of the topic and most importantly, useful to leaders at any level in the organization. You do not need to be in senior leadership to implement the ideas outlined in this book. In fact, that’s what I appreciated about one of the major themes in The Culture Engine: even if your sphere of influence spans only as far as your immediate direct reports, you can make a difference using the tools outlined in this book. I’ve already recommended it to several of my clients.

If you want to learn more about the concepts in this book, read the Culture Engine series , which features my interview with Chris, as well as other posts related to his book. Are you on social media? Check out #TheCultureEngine to follow trending topics on this book.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for the purposes interviewing the author. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Please know that I only share information that I believe will be useful to my readers. For more information, see The People Equation disclosure statement.


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