Monthly Culture Inspiration: May 2018

Every month, I post three types of culture inspiration: a visual, a book, and an article to bookmark.

Visual: The Culture Book

culture book.jpg

The Culturati Summit, which convenes C-Suite leaders to talk about culture once a year, self-published The Culture Book, an anthology described as "a guide to developing awesome and sustainable company cultures from the people who have built them." It features pieces about how to identify, embed and sustain your own authentic, high-performing culture from Kim Malone Scott (author of Radical Candor), Patty McCord (former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix), Lindsay McGregor (author of Primed to Perform), Sara Holoubek (CEO of Luminary Labs), and many more. And it is beautifully designed!


Book: New Power by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms

Old power is held by few: it is closed, inaccessible, and guarded. New power is made by many: it is open, participatory, and peer-driven. New power is ascendent. Think Airbnb, Lyft, Etsy, Bitcoin, Black Lives Matter, and #MeToo. New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World-and How to Make It Work for You is written by Jeremy Heimans, C.E.O. of Purpose, which supports global social movements, and Henry Timms, executive director at New York’s 92nd Street Y.

The book includes stories about power in many settings, but I was most interested in its stories of power in organizations. The authors peek inside of the culture of Lyft vs. Uber. They interview a driver who has worked at both companies, who explains that Uber tries to distance itself from its drivers, while Lyft tries to support and empower its drivers. "Uber vs. Lyft is a story of design choices: How much agency and value should go to participants?" Lyft is using new power methods to push the power down to the drivers, which increases their pay and satisfaction.

The book also discusses Buurtzorg, a Dutch home-care organization which has attracted international attention for its innovative use of independent nurse teams in delivering high-quality, relatively low-cost care. The self-management structure of Buurtzorg is similar to Holacracy, but the authors point out that the reason Buurtzorg's self-management structure works, while most attempts at Holacracy have failed, is that Holacracy is full of restrictions and protocols. Holacracy sounds like new power, but actually is "new power for robots." One person who had been a part of a Holacratic organization explained, "It felt like being part of a code... an algorithm that is optimized for machines, not humans. Instead of feeling more whole, self-organized and more powerful, I felt trapped. The circles I was being part of idd not feel empowering at all." But Buurtzorg puts humans first, which is why nurses love working there.


Article to Bookmark: Reinventing Organizations Wiki

One of the books that I recommend people read about culture and organizations is Frederic Laloux's Reinventing Organizations, a joyful guide to enlightened organizations who have found new and better ways of working. Laloux also created a handy wiki for "leaders looking to upgrade specific management practices in their organization." The Culture and Values page is particularly helpful.

Monthly Culture Inspiration: April 2018

Every month, I post three types of culture inspiration: a visual, a book, and an article to bookmark.

Visual: SYPartners' Micro-choices, Micro-Actions, Micro-Behaviors


SYPartners’ Keith Yamashita developed thinking on how leaders can create positive change around diversity and inclusion. It happens through micro-choices, micro-actions, and micro-behaviors—and inspire change in others by example. Because while policy changes and training around diversity in the workplace are critical, it’s everyday behavior change that forwards progress and lasting change. You can download the document here.

Book: Powerful by Patty McCord

It's safe to say I have a big work crush on Patty McCord, former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix. In Powerful, she shares lessons learned at Netflix and in her work consulting for other companies after she left Netflix. She advocates practicing radical honesty in the workplace and motivating with challenging work, not promises, perks, and bonus plans. My co-author Liz and I interviewed Patty for our forthcoming book on emotions at work, and she had so much wise advice (and was also a hoot to talk to). 

Here are some of my favorite passages from the book: 

  • “The first step in culture transformation is embracing a management mind-set that overturns conventional wisdom. The fundamental lesson we learned at Netflix about success in business today is this: the elaborate, cumbersome system for managing people that was developed over the course of the twentieth century is just not up to the challenges companies face in the twenty-first. Reed Hastings and I and the rest of the management team decided that, over time, we would explore a radical new way to manage people—a way that would allow them to exercise their full powers.”
  • "Culture is the strategy of how you work. And if people believe that it is a strategy and that it is important, they will help you think about it deeply and try things."
  • "I understood that part of the reason large teams are crippled in their ability to innovate and move fast is that because it's hard work to manage them, companies build infrastructure to make sure people are doing the right things. But the teams I saw that accomplished great stuff just knew what they most needed to accomplish; they didn't need elaborate procedures, and certainly not incentives... I wondered: what if people in marketing and finance and my own group, human resources, were allowed to unleash their full powers? They would operate like high-performance engineering teams."

Read the book to learn how Patty questioned all assumptions about polices, procedures, bonuses, performance reviews; why honesty creates a better culture, and why it's better to be transparent about salaries. She writes in an extremely accessible and conversational tone. It was a joy to read.

Article to Bookmark: How to Be a C.E.O., From a Decade’s Worth of Them

I read Adam Bryant's weekly New York Times Corner Office column every week for years. I was sad to hear he's moving on from the column, but not before he summarized his learnings from 525 columns into one massive guide

There are several good quotes on culture, but here's a good one from Tae Hea Nahm, managing director of Storm Ventures: “Basically, people seeing who succeeds and fails in the company defines culture. The people who succeed become role models for what’s valued in the organization, and that defines culture.”