Where Corporate Culture Change Guru’s Get it Wrong

I’ve taken the liberty to copy a blog from a well authorised site to dissect it to demonstrate where corporate culture change guru’s have really got it wrong.

The blog post original is from here: 

LETS START WITH THE ARTICLE’S HYPER RUBBISH HEADLINE — “From the ABC to Dreamworld, corporate culture is in crisis. Corporations are in crisis across Australia. Here, issues management expert Peter Wilkinson evaluates the importance of perfecting culture in preparation for times of strife.” With a third royal commission pending, and ABC chaos, plus a series of company crises (Dreamworld, Big Un, Get Swift, CPA) media and public tolerance for rotten corporate culture has all but vanished.”


What they mean to say is “Corporate Culture’s always lag corporate strategy because leaders are forced to be compliant to lower minded mid level managers who would be better served working in 711 stores in their retirement. The cultures are not in crisis, the cultures are lagging strategy by up to 3 years in the case of the ABC and Dreamworld where too much power has been shaken from the CEO and team to politically correct incompetent others.

In the following they got it completely wrong by suggesting that Culture starts with as a concept for a leader and ends in a conversation inside each employee’s head. It’s the opposite. The author is suggesting that culture and leadership can manipulate and brainwash weak individuals into thinking whatever the leader thinks.
Rubbish “people follow the yellow brick road to their own goals. People think “what’s good? What can I do to get what I want? How can I do what rewards me?” Don’t exaggerate the role of the leader in culture… Systems and Structure are the real driving force.

“Culture is the one way we can unite our organisation behind our business goals and behaviours. It’s sometimes our only competitive advantage. It’s why staff and customers will stay, or leave. A rotten culture definitely holds a company back; a positive culture drives you forward.

Culture starts with as a concept for a leader, and ends as the conversation in inside every employee’s head.”

Even for excellent companies this is relevant because all companies are undergoing forced and constant change.

All companies are not undergoing forced and constant change. Most great companies are causing change, inspiring growth. It’s not forced. Change is also never constant. Change is cyclic. No organisation can survive constant change. It would burnout and exhaust clients and employees. Nature grows in cycles, never straight lines.

In the paragraph below, the author is making it sound like culture leads an organisation but the truth is Strategy leads an organisation and culture must be evolved and grown to suit it. When organisations try to put culture before strategy, such as he’s suggesting for the ABC, you know that the middle management, senior management and politics have taken over the ship, again looking after their own “What’s in this for me” campaign, and that’s where the real change needs to happen.

Someone has to lead, a person who puts aside blocks of thinking time, because nurturing a culture requires constant reflection and adjustment.

The rest is just RUBBISH too…

If the leader is driven, that will be the culture; same if he/she is cheerful, creative, process-oriented, glass-half-full or empty, an innovator, into repetition, empathetic, inflexible, happy or sad.

For a CEO, creating the ultimate culture is one of the toughest gigs, and for each it’s different. I meet with a group of CEOs every month and we argue issues so we can be better. Culture comes up in almost everything: productivity issues, change management, driving growth, training, problems with millennials (now Gen Z), increasing profit, how to hire and fire, and more.

Even defining a culture suitable for an organisation is complex; there are so many differing opinions. But for me it’s a combination of: people (shared values and behaviours), vision, ambition, systems and processes.

The right people

Like-minded people, with similar values and behaviours, create a strong culture. Jim Collins’ thesis in his 2001 book Good to Great and his belief in “getting the right people on the bus”, changed a lot of employment tactics.

In a small office, and probably all leaderships teams, one misaligned person can drag the rest down. Hence, the ‘hire slow, fire fast’ philosophy.

As a colleague of mine remarked: “We need robust debate, but not sand in the gears.”


If the leader can’t express “where we are going”, neither can anyone else. Certainly in my careers in journalism and then in corporate affairs, people want both meaning in their work and a strong sense of direction.

In our era of constant change, this is increasingly important. Where change is a necessity, people want not only a clear idea of where they are going, but need a clear “why” they are being removed from the comfort of their current work (“he who has a why to live,” philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche famously wrote, “can bear almost any how”).


To understand where culture’s do not support strategy, such as in my cultural audit, simply draw a pyramid, and see structure and power (culture) matches the grid. If personal influence (power) is not in synch, then, Culture leads Strategy and the business will fail, no matter who leads it with what.


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