I continue to revise and update “Some (Very) (Important) Stuff.” I have done so again, adding Sections XIX and XX. The latter is on the topic of corporate culture. You will also see it below.

In a revision a few days ago, I included a paper titled “Acknowledgement.” This time I am appending a paper titled “Systems Have Their Place: SECOND Place.” The argument is that systems are indeed important—but their impact is largely negated, or worse, if the supporting culture is not in place. There are 10 case studies, from the U.S. Air Force to Mayo Clinic to Toyota. I’ve made this paper available before, but I have also just significantly revised it.

Culture Comes … FIRST

WSJ/0910.13: “What matters most to a company over time? Strategy or culture?” Dominic Barton,* MD, McKinsey & Co. “Culture.”

Bill Walsh,* NFL Hall of Fame Coach: “Culture precedes positive results. It doesn’t get tacked on as an afterthought on the way to the victory stand.”

Lou Gerstner,* former CEO, IBM: “If I could have chosen not to tackle the IBM culture head-on, I probably wouldn’t have. My bias coming in was toward strategy, analysis and measurement. In comparison, changing the attitude and behaviors of hundreds of thousands of people is very, very hard. Yet I came to see in my time at IBM that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—IT IS THE GAME.”

(*Note that all three of these CEOs are/were Charter Members of the Hardass School of Management. This was a realization that emerged for each one over time, but is stated here—UNEQUIVOCALLY.)

Culture With a … 100X BANG

“I am hundreds of times [repeat: 100s of times] better here [than in my prior hospital assignment] because of the support system. It’s like you are working in an organism; you are not a single cell when you are out there practicing.”—Dr. Nina Schwenk, Mayo Clinic*

(*One of the two core values instilled by Dr. William Mayo in 1910 was, effectively, practicing team medicine. Designing the practice around the patient, or “patient-centered care” as some call its rare manifestation today, was the other core value. At Mayo, upon occasion prominent M.D.s have been asked to leave because of their inability to fully grasp the team-practice concept.)


There is a ton of high falutin’ stuff written about “corporate culture”—hey, I’ve written some of it. But the unvarnished stuff appeals most to me. Former Burger King CEO Barry Gibbons is a pal. He orchestrated a magical turnaround at a troubled firm. And the heart of the matter, which he largely achieved, is described—UNVARNISHED—here:

“I didn’t have a ‘mission statement’ at Burger King. I had a dream. Very simple. It was something like, ‘Burger King is 250,000 people, every one of whom gives a shit.’ Every one. Accounting. Systems. Not just the drive through. Everyone is ‘in the brand.’ That’s what we’re talking about, nothing less.”

Tom Peters posted this on January 7, 2014, in Leadership.
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