Great Mondays: A book review by Bob Morris

Great Mondays: How to Design a Company Culture Employees Love
Josh Levine
McGraw-Hill Education (March 2019)

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  Peter Drucker

I selected the observation by Peter Drucker because it suggests the power that a workplace culture can have, for better or worse. It is no coincidence that most of the companies annually ranked among those most highly admired and best to work for are also among those that are annually ranked among the most profitable with the greatest cap value in their industry segment. There are other workplace cultures whose leaders are, as James O’Toole so aptly describes it, “hostage to the ideology of comfort and tyranny of custom.”

Josh Levine has wide and deed experience designing a workplace culture “where people not only want to work, but love to work.” That is, a culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive. He recommends a framework that consists of six separate but interdependent components:

“PURPOSE: Why an organization exists beyond making money
VALUES: Shared beliefs about what is most important when conducting business
BEHAVIORS: Choices made by employees that are guided by purpose and values
RECOGNITION: Programs that encourage behaviors that bring the culture to life
RITUALS: Recurring group activities that build and strengthen relationships
CUES: Reminders that help employees and leaders stay connected to the future”

They are the WHAT and WHY. Levine also explains HOW leaders can establish and then sustain such a workplace culture in any organization, whatever its size and nature may be.

He appropriates some of the features of a workbook providing space throughout his narrative to record responses to dozens of questions and suggestions or complete exercises such as “After it’s gone, why will  your company be remembered?” (page 46) and “Write Your Company’s Purpose Statement” (page 47) or having members of a group complete a three-step exercise to determine their company’s purpose (page 48).  I also highly recommend keeping a lined notebook near at hand (my preference is the Mead “marble” composition notebook) in order to record comments, questions, page references, etc.  This will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.

Having the completed exercises readily available will help to guide and inform the aforementioned modifications and adjustments of culture design. I agree with Marshall Goldsmith admonition, “What got you here won’t get you there.” In fact,  I think “what got you here won’t even keep you here,” wherever “here” may be.

With all due respect to the importance and challenges of culture design, Levine realizes that design modifications and adjustments must be made in a global marketplace that becomes more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous each day. One key to business success these days is the ability and willingness to redesign whenever circumstances require that. I wish I had this book when, for the first time, I was given direct reports to supervise. Even then, change was the only constant in the competitive marketplace I surveyed.

As I hope these remarks indicate, I highly admire Josh Levine and his work. If your organization needs to establish and then nourish a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive, this book is a “must read.”

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