Best Books on Company Culture
Inspire Your Team With These Books
At CultureIQ we engage with the topic of company culture a lot — when we’re at work, when we’re talking at our dinner tables, when we’re doing some thinking on a run, when we’re reading on the subway, you name it.
That means that we have a wealth of knowledge and perspectives to inform our thinking about culture. I decided to tap into that by asking my teammates to share their favorite “company culture book” (really any book that inspires great company culture).
Sure enough they delivered, because it’s never too late to bring back the good old book report:
by L. David Marquet
Former U.S. Navy commander David Marquet describes how a culture shift turned the USS Santa Fe from the worst-performing nuclear submarine in its fleet to the best. By delegating responsibility and instilling a sense of ownership among his crew, Marquet created leaders of every rank. Empowered to think and act independently within a high-stakes environment, Marquet’s sailors rose to the occasion, winning awards and recognition for the USS Santa Fe and honors and promotions for themselves
This is a prime example of how a culture of individual responsibility can drive measurable success within your organization. It’s also proof that strong cultures aren’t limited to trendy internet startups with kegerators, ping-pong tables, and flat organizational structures. The right leadership can nurture a strong culture even in an environment with strict regulations and hierarchies. If a nuclear submarine can do it, so can your company!
This book gave me hope that the good will be rewarded, meaning there may just be justice in the world. It’s much easier to be generous when you’re not worried about being the sucker.
How Google Works
by Eric Schmidt (Executive Chairman of Alphabet Inc. and former CEO of Google) and Jonathan Rosenberg (Advisor to Alphabet Inc. and former SVP of Products at Google)
Schmidt and Rosenberg are inspirational leaders and engaging authors. In How Google Works they offer not only extremely compelling business advice for building and running a company, but also a very fun, witty story of how they and the founders scaled Google.
Overall, the book is a business book, not a culture book, which is why I love it. The purpose is to equip readers with tactics and practices to launch and scale a successful business. And, according the them, it all starts with culture.
The authors begin with a story of essentially denying an urgent request from a board member for a detailed business plan, and instead revealing the real plan and strategy at Google: “hire as many talented engineers as possible and give them freedom.” What follows is the tale of a company that never compromised on who they hire, how they treat people, or the freedom they give to their employees. It’s a book that is guaranteed to push your thinking and hopefully make you question your own assumptions about what you can and cannot do as a leader in the workplace. And if you happen to be the smart-creative type that would fit in at Google, you’ll find yourself desperate and motivated to put Google’s practices and attitudes in place immediately at your own organization.
– David Shanklin
The Zappos Culture Book has multiple editions and is released every year featuring anecdotes and expressions from Zappos employees, customers, and business partners on what their experience working with/for Zappos has been like.
I think that providing an outlet for expressing the positive thoughts and emotions of your employees helps build rapport within an organization. Publishing thoughts on the employee experience also shows transparency at the highest levels, and I think this could serve as a great example to other businesses looking to empower their employees to feel that they “own” a piece of the culture.
Driving to Perfection
by Brian L. Fielkow (CEO of Jetco Delivery)
This book drives the message that there is an undeniable link between culture and business. A truly digestible read for active business leaders, the book provides hands-on practical solutions that emphasize the use of time, not money. Fielkow’s strong educational background (BA in History and JD Law), as well as his rich demonstrated experience as an entrepreneur and operations leader, lend a high level of credibility to his counsel.
This read emphasizes step-by-step solutions, drawing from coaching, empathy, and top-down behavioral modeling. He calls out the need to evaluate existing organizational priorities (customer service, safety, productivity/efficiency, and cost control/financial interests) and how they impact behaviors and values. Best of all, Fielkow connects people-focused methodologies with the outcome of a strong culture in which customers enjoy a distinct and remarkable experience that keeps them loyal and satisfied. The overall outcome is business growth and business success.
Fielkow also emphasizes the difference between priorities and values, which is especially important in today’s high demand, fast-paced market. This is a great read for business leaders and HR professionals alike, because it lays out a clear process for creating tangible synergy between culture, people, and business excellence. I give it an A+ on relevance, clarity, and insight.
– Rachael de Villiers, PHR