If I Had Known It Would Be This Hard . . .


Over the years I have spoken to many entrepreneurs and most say the same thing: “If I had known it was going to be this hard, I never would have started my business!”  Yet, hard or not, frustrations or not, there is some broken chromosome that turns ordinary people into serial entrepreneurs and gluttons for repeated punishments.

Authors have a similar aberrant gene somewhere that causes them to finish one book, get roaring drunk, then start another. It is as if the plot or characters grab them by the throat and drag them back to the word processor (or typewriter or yellow tablet), chain them to the desk and stand over them with whips raised.

Guilty as charged!

Having finished FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution in January, 2013, here I am at my desk with another book being excised from my brain onto the screen. The title is:  ADVANTAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture.

Advantage coverBasically the book is a guide for senior executives and business leaders in private and public organisations to better understand the concept of corporate culture, what it is, where it comes from, its impact on people and performance, how to reshape culture, and how culture and business risk are interrelated. But what is interesting about this book, at least for me, is how hard it is to write!

In the late 1970’s I started to write, lecture and consult on the emerging concept of corporate culture and by the time I retired as CEO from my international management consulting firm in 2000, I was immersed in the world of corporate culture, both from a practical and a research point of view.  So, having been on the ground floor of the corporate culture movement for nearly 30 years, I assumed this book would be easy to write.

Big mistake.

Between 2000 and 2012 I took my eye off “corporate culture” to focus on strategy and most importantly, strategy execution (hence the book: FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution). In those short 12 years (my daughter is already 14, yikes!) there has been an explosion of interest and literature, as well as culture consultants (one client calls them the culture vultures), all focusing on topics related to corporate culture.

It is nearly impossible to pick up any business article, no matter what the industry, and not see the words corporate culture.  And headlines abound: The Culture of Banking Is Broken; The Profit Power of Corporate Culture; How Innovative Is Your Company’s Culture?; Corporate Culture: The Only Truly Sustainable Competitive Advantage; Demystifying Corporate Culture.

Books about corporate culture populate the business best-seller lists: Corporate Culture and Performance; Leading Culture Change in Global Organizations; Toyota Culture: The Heart and Soul of the Toyota Way; The Corporate Culture Survival Guide, to name just a few. Even the giant Internet shoe retailer, Zappos.com, has produced a book about its famous corporate culture!

A recent Google search for the phrase “corporate culture” turned up 621 million hits in 0.21 seconds. (a search for “leadership” turned up 456 million, while “productivity” only 264 million hits).  And it’s not just newspapers and human resource journals that publish articles on corporate culture, but academic and professional journals such as the Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, The Economist, Forbes and Fortune magazine.  The list of books and articles are endless, as are the definitions of corporate culture.

Even Warren Buffet is talking about corporate culture:

“Culture, more than rule books,
 determines how an organization behaves.”

 BuffettAs for the management at his famous investment firm, Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett insists that a culture of  “personal ownership” prevails there as well.

 “Our compensation programs, our annual meeting and even our annual reports are all designed with an eye to reinforcing the Berkshire culture, and making it one that will repel and expel managers of a different bent.”

This book is more difficult to write than I ever imagined, since there are so many conflicting definitions, biased and unprofessional articles about culture, and so much misinformation.  Not to mention the subject alone is complex and subtle to understand and describe.

My goal in this new book is simple and can be summed up in the by-line to the title:

“Few concepts in business contain so many powerful truths, and at the same time so much crap, as Corporate Culture.”

I hope you will look forward to reading ADVANTAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture as much as I am to finishing it!

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress


About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
This entry was posted in consulting, corporate culture, Human Psychology, John R Childress, John's views on the world, leadership, Organization Behavior, strategy execution, the business of business and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to If I Had Known It Would Be This Hard . . .

  1. Frank Tempesta says:

    You are amazingly prolific…..good for you.


  2. Raunak says:

    looking forward to some more thrilling novels!


  3. Pingback: Been Busy . . . | John R Childress . . . Rethinking

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