The Culture Question: A book review by Bob Morris

The Culture Question: How to Create a Workplace Where People Like to Work
Randy Grieser and Eric Stutzman, Michael Lebun, and Wendy Loewen
Achieve Publishing (March 2019)
How to Create Employee Evangelists
It is no coincidence that companies annually ranked among those most highly admired and best to work for are also annually ranked among those most profitable with the greatest cap value in their industry segment. I was reminded of that again as I began to read this book, written by Randy Grieser, Eric Stutzman, Michael Lebun, and Wendy Loewen.

These programs may indeed help create fun and productive organizations such as Bain & Company, In-N-Out Burger, Boston Consulting Group, LinkedIn, and Google. However, as the four co-authors point out , “the reality is most of our workplaces do not have the resources to implement these sorts of programs” such as complimentary food courts, fancy buildings, free massages, and foosball tables.

“The good news is that, while these types of perks may be nice, they aren’t actually necessary for attracting productive and committed employees who enjoy their work and are loyal to their organizations. Instead, the key is building a healthy workplace culture.” OK but how?

Grieser, Stutzman, Lebun, and Loewen wrote this book in order to answer that question. Most of the information, insights, and counsel they provide can be of incalculable value to leaders in almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. As the book’s subtitle suggests, they explain how to create a workplace where people like to work. That is, a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive. For me, that is the ultimate competitive advantage in any marketplace. Those who comprise the workforce become evangelists at a time when, on average, less than 30% of employees in a U.S. company are actively and positively engaged. The other workers? They are either mailing it in or actively undermining the company’s success.

If a workplace is viewed as a living organism, its health is measured by the vital signs of its culture. Do you know how healthy your organization is? In the Resources section that Grieser, Stutzman, Lebun, and Loewen provide, you’ll find “Cultural Health Assessment” (Pages 216-218). It is referenced on Page 164 in Chapter 8. These are the other Resources:

o Reading Recommendations (202-206)
o Purpose and Vales Questionnaire (208)
o Sample Interview Questions (209)
o A Guide for Building Consensus (210-211)
o Conflict Transformation Guide (212)
o Conflict Management & Respectful Workplace Guidelines (213-215)
o Culture Change Guide (217-218)

Although  brief, these mini-commentaries offer remarkably specific and substantial observations and suggestions. The same can also be said of the material that Grieser, Stutzman, Lebun, and Loewen insert throughout their lively narrative, such as a “Questions for Reflection” section at the conclusion of Chapters 1-8 as well as checklists, step-by-step action sequences and processes, and “Survey Statistics” and “Survey Responses” from their wide and deep research. This is indeed an evidence-driven book.

There is no need for a “spoiler alert” in this brief commentary now because I am not going reveal what Randy Grieser, Eric Stutzman, Michael Lebun, and Wendy Loewen recommend in order to achieve strategic objectives such as these: communicating purposes and values, providing meaningful work, focusing the leadership team on people rather than on profit or productivity, building meaningful relationships, creating peak performing teams, practicing constructive conflict management, and changing culture. A separate chapter in the book is devoted to each of these.

I do, however, want to express my hope that those who read (and hopefully re-read) this book then make a best effort to apply relevant lessons learned to making their own workplace environment much healthier. Perhaps it is a small company or a department within a larger one. Perhaps it’s a division or C-suite of a much larger corporation.

Also, I presume to offer three specific suggestions, based on more than four decades of real-world experience. First, think and communicate using first-person PLURAL pronouns. Next, when interacting with others, spend at least 80% of the time listening and observing. Finally, do everything you can to help others succeed and consider that a privilege, not an obligation.

Let’s have Theodore Roosevelt provide the last word: “People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

 

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