13. October 2022

The Difference Between a Strong and an Effective Culture

Building an effective culture is key in any transformation. The new book by James L. Heskett, an emeritus Harvard Business School Professor, on “Win from Within: Build Organisational Culture for Competitive Advantage” is one that I like very much.

I have been a fan of James Heskett and his work since I was a young MBA student following his classes. In his latest book, he provides some very insightful perspectives and helpful tools on what an effective culture is and how to shift a culture to this direction. Although a short post doesn’t do any justice to the helpful insights of the book, let me give a selection of the key insights which might be good reminders:

  • Culture is not soft; its impact on profit can be measured.
  • The relative profitability of two organisations in the same industry can be predicted by culture-related information.
  • A strong culture is not the same as an effective culture, what’s needed is adaptability along with strength.
  • In today’s dynamic environment which requires agility, a culture needs to support more than one strategy.
  • An effective (strong and change-supporting) culture is a competitive advantage which can’t be hacked.
  • The pathways to profit from culture lead through employee engagement.
  • Engaged employees are key, and they are influenced by an inspiring mission, good leadership, attractive jobs, a great team, and culture.
  • Organising around teams not vs. stars.
  • Hire for attitude, train for skills, and provide outstanding support systems.
  • Hire and develop people that attract other good people.
  • To sustain an effective culture, make it easy for people to self-select into or out of the organisation.
  • Staffing for diversity; leading for inclusion.
  • Recognise effort, but especially result.
  • Remote work strategies require extra effort and ingenuity on all levels of leadership to preserve an effective culture.


Which one of these above insights do you recognise most?

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