This article was originally published on July 7th, 2007. I’m more and more convinced that we need to start connecting the reasons for what we do with what we actually do – in business, leadership, and life.
I love the random ways books come into my life – especially the ones that I normally would have never picked off of a shelf. I picked up How outside of a bookstore that was giving its advance copies away for free. It sat on my night stand for a year before I picked it up and started reading it – at the exact perfect time to do so. You gotta love syncronicity.
In How, Dov explores the power of what I would call organizational intention. Instead of looking at the logistical process of running a business, he explores and clarifies why the how of what you do is just as important as the what you do. He makes a strong argument that lining up such ideas as reputation, trust, leadership, and culture with organizational goals is the way to succeed. Not only to create success, but as a way to create significance.
Ideas, Implications, and Questions
- A metaphor Dov uses to explain organizational growth is one that I think has strong parallels to personal growth – the BCA Hill. in this idea, the “B” student is rather removed from the height of an “A” student by a trough of “C” in between. His point is that you have to move away from comfortable mediocrity into uncomfortable struggle before you achieve mastery. The idea that it’s easy to get trapped on the hill of mediocrity, because the path towards excellence usually involves trudging through some short-term challenge, is right on in my opinion.
- I’ve always been loath to add new rules when I’m involved in a group and How does a great job of explaining why. Dov’s idea that rules are proxies for in-depth analysis and reflection is brilliant, and I couldn’t agree more that “rules respond to behavior, they don’t lead it” (pg 86). The goal is to create values, not new rules. It reminds me that when I’m in leadership functions in organizations and something is happening that isn’t in alignment with the organization, I can suggest that we look at it as a culture creating opportunity as opposed to rule-making one.
- “Culture happens at the synapses where people interact.” (pg 227)
- Dov builds a case for the value of a self-governing culture. I agree with him, but how do you create that type of environment? What are the steps necessary to make it happen? I think that a self-governing culture necessarily begins with a confident and mature group of individuals. So I think a big part of this is the group’s focus on on-going training and development. There has to be a work-force in place with the maturity to handle the responsibility of self-governance.
- Transparency, Trust, Reputation. These are the big three in my opinion. How can I use the transparent world to hold me to a higher standard of living and working? How can I constantly build more trust? How can I manage the reputation of myself and my company?
- I love that Dov points out the limitations of “success”. He suggests that the true goal should be significance – and success will be a natural by-product. The question is, how can I be significant today? (pg 302)
Should You Read This Book?
This is one of the better books I’ve read that tackles the workings of organizational culture – most books just say that culture is important and then leave you to figure out why. If you are responsible for leading and influencing a group of people, whether it’s a company, a business division, or your PTA, I would suggest using this book to help frame your vision for the group’s development.