Before you jump on the culture change bandwagon . . .

Before you jump on the culture change bandwagon, there’s some reading you should do: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture



The phrase “jump on the bandwagon” or “climb on the bandwagon”, is a popular saying, with a bandwagon being a wagon big enough to hold a band of musicians. In past political campaigns, candidates would ride a bandwagon through town, and people would show support for the candidate by climbing aboard the wagon. In modern-day usage the phrase has come to refer to joining a cause because of its popularity.


The current business “bandwagon” seems to be corporate culture. And it is gaining momentum with such studies as the recently released news release by Korn Ferry Hay Group  on its recent global study on “Real World Leadership”.  According to the survey of more than 7,500 executives from 107 countries,  “driving culture change” ranks among the top three global leadership development priorities. The logical connection here with business performance is that most people believe that corporate culture has a direct impact on a company’s ability to execute on its competitive strategy, engage employees and hire and retain the best talent. And there is considerable evidence that this is the case.

And in a 2014 Korn Ferry survey, 72 percent of respondents agreed that culture is extremely important to organisational performance. However, only 32 percent said their culture aligns with their business strategy. Measuring or defining a corporate culture is a far cry from changing or reshaping it for improved performance. The distance between the two (culture assessment and culture change) is similar to deciding to lose 30 pounds and actually doing all the daily activities, from changing diet to regular exercise, that it takes to actually lose weight.

trumpOkay, so culture is a popular business topic. But being popular doesn’t necessarily mean that the causal factors of an ineffective culture or how to change culture is well understood. Donald Trump and Sarah Palin are very popular, but don’t have much of a track record in making positive change happen across a large nation.

My friend and business colleague Dr. Leandro Herrero, one of the few experienced practitioners of real culture change keeps saying that critical thinking and a solid understanding of change management and culture change is a rare element in most businesses.  It’s not that culture or culture change is rocket science, it’s just that it’s full of myths and anecdotes and short on actual tools and techniques that produce sustainable change.

Few concepts in business today contain so many powerful truths, and at the same time so much crap, as corporate culture.  ~John R Childress

A little study and critical thinking can save a lot of time, money and wasted energy jumping on the culture change bandwagon.

Here’s a few words from the introduction of LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture:

This Guidebook . . .

The problem with experts is they know too much and understand too little.

 It is my job in this short guidebook to clear up some of the mystery and misconceptions of what corporate culture is, why it matters, its impact on performance, where culture comes from, how to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your own culture, and ultimately, how to develop and shape a corporate culture that supports and propels your organization towards its business and strategic objectives.

Big goals for such a little book! But I have had the help of some of the most talented and respected CEOs, senior executives and business leaders from around the world, who have built, led and worked in large global organizations as well as small to medium enterprises. Together we have talked about, explored, dissected, inspected, studied, mapped, and shifted corporate cultures, all with the goal of improving the lives of customers, employees, the environment, shareholders and other stakeholders. The experiences and insights gained from my 35-year career working with many CEOs and senior executive teams on corporate culture and culture change form the basis for this guidebook.

 Oops!!, the bandwagon just left the station.

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

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 Before you jump on the culture change bandwagon . . .

  1. Dave Eaton says:

    Good one

    Dave Eaton
    Senior Partner
    Practice Leader, Culture Transformation

    Brand New Video on Building Culture

    200 West Street
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