The Seven Faces of Corporate Culture

John’s Note:  The following is the first draft of the Introduction to a new book I am writing. A book prompted by readers of my last book suggesting I give them more detail, more “how to”, more specifics on corporate culture.

I will be putting successive chapters out on my blog, Rethinking . . . , in the hopes that it will stimulate readers and those interested in corporate culture and leadership to further the dialogue and also send me ideas and suggestions that I can work into this new book.

The book title is: The Seven Faces of Corporate Culture.  Here is the first draft of the Introduction:

Introduction: The Seven Faces of Corporate Culture

Regard the holy trinity of change and progress: insight, implication and application.

Buddha 4 facesOn my office desk sits a small brass bust of a Buddha with four faces. Each of the four distinct sides sports a different facial expression. One shows contentment, the other amusement, another empathy and the fourth face laughter. The purpose of a Buddha with four faces in different directions is to ensure that no matter from which direction prayers emanate, the Buddha could hear them and respond. Sort of a spiritual omni-directional listening device.

 The business concept of corporate culture reminds me of a multi-faced Buddha in the sense that corporate culture exists everywhere inside a company, no matter in which direction you look, yet the internal subcultures are not always the same. As one of my business partners likes to say, “Whether you like it or not, whether you designed it or let it happen, you have a corporate culture!”

 For being such a popular business term (especially with “consultants” and the business press), corporate culture is still a mystery to most C-suite executives and managers, and even among business academics it remains poorly understood. There is no standard or agreed-upon definition and on the market today there are currently over 70 different corporate culture assessments, each purporting to diagnose your real culture. And even the large global consulting and executive search firms are now offering culture surveys and culture change programs. (If it’s branded by a big consulting firm it must be good, or at least expensive.)

 In my recent book, LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture (The Principia Press, 2013), I took a practitioner’s scalpel to the entire corporate culture movement; from culture assessments to culture change methodologies to culture consultants in an attempt to find the most useful business principles in the vast ocean of culture literature. My goal was to provide CEO’s and business leaders practical insights and useful tools to better understand their own corporate culture and how it influences, both positively and negatively, tangible business performance.

A review in The Economist magazine (Jan. 11, 2014; Vol 410, No. 8869) called my book one of the most “sensible efforts in an otherwise charlatan-infested field”. Okay, so I’m experienced and sensible, and maybe a bit of charlatan!

 In the past several months I have received many emails and letters from readers urging me to provide even more clarity and useable business applications relating to corporate culture and business performance.

 After over 30-years consulting and advising on corporate culture and performance, I have consistently run into seven scenarios where costly business mistakes are being made due to a lack of understanding of corporate culture.

 These seven scenarios are:

  1. Culture as a Hidden Business Risk
  2. Leadership Culture: Organizations are Shadow of the Leaders
  3. M&A: Avoiding the culture clash train wreck
  4. Business Turnaround: Culture and a sustainable turnaround
  5. Rapid Growth: How to avoid diluting your culture
  6. Start-up: Culture by design
  7. Building a Global Corporate Culture

 This short book is designed to provide insights, implications and useful applications for these seven specific business scenarios, where a better understanding of corporate culture could prove the difference between success and failure.

Comments and suggestions welcome, and thanks for joining the conversation.  

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 or
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1 Response to The Seven Faces of Corporate Culture

  1. I love these seven scenarios. The only other one I could think of would be something about sparking innovation / growth and it may already be covered with your approach to a turnaround or another scenario.


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