CULTURE RULES ! : A Revolutionary Insight about Corporate Culture

Culture rules

New Book by John R Childress coming in October, 2017.   Some advanced praise:

“This wonderful book will transform our understanding of corporate culture.  Seeing culture as a business system, and the 10 Core Principles that govern culture, can help leaders at all levels develop a high-performance organization.  Finally, an approach to corporate culture that makes a compelling business case!”
  ~ Stephen M. R. Covey, The New York Times bestselling author of The Speed of Trust, and coauthor of Smart Trust

Click on the book photo to learn more and download a free summary booklet.

Newton and the Apple

As legend goes, Isaac Newton was sitting under a tree deep in mathematical thought when an apple fell down and hit him on the head. That simple physical action, combined with his long pondering of mathematical problems, somehow helped him formulate the theory of universal gravitation and the orbits of planets.

Whether the actual event happened is highly suspect, but the fact is, Newton had been pondering the question of how gravity works for several years. His subconscious was primed to make a breakthrough and the apple might have been the igniting event.  The same is true for Charles Darwin.  It wasn’t a single event that helped him come up with his theory of evolution, but two decades of reviewing his observations, notes and experiences following his travels in the Galapagos Islands.

Perplexed and Vexed:

I too have been bothered and perplexed by things that just don’t add up.  For me, my challenge is to understand how businesses and other organizations work and why some produce stunning results and keep doing so, while others, with equally good products and financial backing, work hard only to deliver mediocre results.

For the past 35 plus years I have been consulting, speaking, writing and coaching business leaders, executive teams and Boards on the importance of corporate culture and its impact on business results, employee engagement and customer loyalty. I have designed dozens upon dozens of senior team culture change events, developed approaches for sustainable business turnarounds using culture change as the main lever, and coached multiple new CEOs on how to quickly understand the cultural strengths and weaknesses of the company they were coming in to lead.

But something was always missing. The workshops were great, leaders began to change their behaviors, culture change road maps were developed, KPI’s for culture change were developed and refined, and in many cases, the culture shifted, for a while.  But there was always this seemingly “invisible hand of culture” dragging things back, keeping the new culture and behaviors from being fully imbedded and becoming the new normal.

When you are lost and all else fails, go back to the beginning!

So, I sat down and started rummaging through my bookshelf for some of the old business books I remember reading a long time ago.  Two books caught my eye.  One by W. Edwards Deming, Out of the Crisis, published in 1986, and the other by James Allen, As a Man Thinketh, originally published in 1903.  Both these books had a profound impact on me when I first discovered them early in my business career, but like many things in our busy lives, their messages had gotten lost in all the data and social media assaulting us these days.


What hit me the most are two profound truths from these two books.  Deming looked at business performance as a whole, and not as a series of discrete parts, like operations, manufacturing, marketings, human resources, etc. To Deming, poor performance was a system problem, not a people or equipment problem. And a particular quote of his reverberated around my brain for weeks:

A bad system will defeat a good employee every time.

A light bulb went on for me.  Maybe culture was a business systems issue, and not an HR issue.

And then after rereading As a Man Thinketh, this quote

You are what you think about and  To think is to create,

reminded me that corporate culture works on human logic and human principles, not business principles!

Suddenly, I had an “apple on the head” moment.  Corporate culture is a business system composed of multiple drivers, many of them disguised as business policies and processes, combined with two other powerful culture drivers,  peer pressure and shared beliefs.  All the multiple elements of the corporate culture system combine in unique ways to determine  company culture.  And some culture drivers are stronger than others.

So, with this insight and dozens of culture  consulting assignments under my belt over the past few years, I sat down and put these thoughts together in a new book, CULTURE RULES! The 10 Core Principles of Corporate Culture. We are just finishing the editing and formatting and the book should be available on Amazon, both as a paperback and in eBook format, sometime in October, 2017.

In the meantime, I have put together a PDF summary booklet of the key concepts, particularly the 10 Core Principles, that is available for download from my website:

Yes, Culture Rules! And Culture has Rules.

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,

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



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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