The Culture Engine


by Jane Anderson, Featured Contributor

WHAT ATTRACTS you to a book? What is it that tells you ‘This is my next book”? Is it the cover’ or what you read on the book jacket; or maybe it’s the publisher’s review. Every book I pick up seems to have a different magnet. This book, The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace (by Chris Edmonds), had two attractions. The first was in the foreword written by Ken Blanchard where he says there are two aspects of effective servant leadership: the strategic leadership aspect and the servant aspect – the operational/implementation. In the pages of this book you will find the key to developing an Organizational Constitution that outlines your team’s or company’s purpose, values, strategies,, and goals. With that introduction I was tempted to read the book, but what really sold me on it was when I flipped to the last part of the book and found a chapter titled ‘Don’t Leave Your Organizational Culture to Chance’. What Ken Blanchard said in the forward, Chris used to sum up his book. The intent of the book is to educate and inspire leadculture engineers to be intentional about purpose, values, behaviors, strategies and goals. Throughout the book Chris Edmonds kept his promise to provide a framework for designing a workplace with an inspiring, values based culture.

The overall theme conveyed through these pages is the design, development, implementation of an Organizational Constitution, and further aligning your organization to it. One of the unique differences of this book is the guidance provided through the delivery of learning materials almost in a workshop format. Interlaced with each subject matter in the book are thinking questions, topical bullet points, and in some cases, step-by-step guidelines for a particular exercise, with each chapter enhanced by a culture effectiveness assessment to accompany each specific stage of progress. These assessments allow leaders and team members to gauge where they are on the aspects of building your organization’s culture on a principle based foundation.

Chris Edmonds doesn’t merely fill these pages with heavy theory and hundreds of ‘you should’ statements. He includes how-to examples to compliment the theory. As expressed in the introduction, readers can expect themes to center around: 1) defining your Organizational Constitution; 2) crafting your Organizational Constitution; and 3) managing to your Organizational Constitution. Edmonds doesn’t claim the task will be easy. He doesn’t give leaders an easy way out either. He charges leaders with the need to engage in the process because it is by this means that they will change their work environment from dreary and frustrating to be inspiring, fun and productive.

Promoting an Organizational Constitution is bound to meet with resistance. But for those who get involved to make it a priority and soldier on they notice these benefits, among many others: growth of employee engagement, employees believe their bosses have behavioral integrity, employee commitment escalates, values based behaviors are common, and communication is more effective. As the culture of the workplace improves, the side benefit will be redirected time and energy to encouragement, better communication, and productivity from cohesive teams. Chris Edmonds promises that unlike most projects, this culture initiative will never be finished​.

​We learn best from stories and experiences we can relate to. Peppered throughout the book Chris Edmonds shares stories from his life as a white water rafting guide and anecdotal quotes credited to one of his managers who mentored him to leadership. These keep the book interesting and relevant. Who doesn’t learn best from hearing about how someone else settled a conflict or resolved a situation?

Designing an Organizational Constitution has some familiar components.

Purpose – Leaders and employees clarify the purpose of the organization. Call it a mission statement or call it a purpose statement, but this is the reason your business exists.

Values – Define the positive values and behaviors you want every leader and employee to demonstrate in every act of interaction with team members and customers. Values and value based behaviors are the most visible demonstration of your Organizational Constitution.

Strategic Plan – Your strategic plan is a formal statement of your company’s desired path to success. Strategy is where the company’s vision of the future intersects with the current realities. Strategies are more than New Year’s resolutions. They are targets, goals, with performance expectations and a formal promise made to customers both internal and external.

About midway through the book Chris provides a five point strategic planning tool. Using the illustration of a wheel it impresses upon his readers that the planning process, like the culture engine is an ongoing process.

WHERE you are as an organization now

WHAT opportunities exist; what your customers want

DECIDE on three or four strategic imperatives to pursue over the next two years

WORK the plan, putting the elements in place required for step three

ASSESS your progress quarterly and evaluate strategic imperatives

Use the cultural effectiveness assessments to gauge where your team is in this process of generating a positive, productive culture in your workplace. What you will encounter through the rollout of developing your Organizational Constitution are exercises worthwhile even to organizations whose culture is high-performing. The leadership team and staff identify and understand the purpose of the business, values, behaviors, strategies and goals. For those who are involved in the process, they become acutely aware of the strategic plan and are able to communicate it so everyone shares the same impression and vision. Everyone needs to understand the strategic plan of his or her team and how that plan drives their functional contributions and personal contributions to support the strategic plan. Team members should be able to describe how his or her daily projects affect the goals of the organization and how integral they are to the accomplishment of team or company strategies.

The Organizational Constitution is implemented. Now what? Everybody knows about it, it’s been communicated, you might have introduced it through training. Now it’s time to live it! Leaders don’t need permission to move forward – the cultural change has begun. Will there be resistance? Of course! This is change to the culture of the workplace. Chris talks about that too. Sometimes it’s not just team members who resist, but it’s often leaders who are unwilling to change. Resistance erodes confidence in the Organizational Constitution. It’s important for everyone to understand that there is new emphasis on performance standards and that they are clarified through strategies and goals. You’re asking people to shift away from the mindset of short-term results to the mindset of a long-term inspiring workplace that delivers great products and services. Chris devotes a full chapter to this subject of resistance. Two of his five pieces of advice to deal with resistance are 1) do not take it personally and 2) be specific on behaviors you expect, then don’t let them off the hook. The goal is to have 100% of your leaders and team members be high performers who are great team citizens.

Finally, I consider this a bonus chapter, but it’s all about the hiring process after you’ve implemented your Organizational Constitution. Chris describes the hiring process of the past, looking at skills and past accomplishments, in comparison to what to look for now, team players whose values match your Organizational Constitution. Considering applicable skills and past successes are great but the talented player who doesn’t embrace your department’s values and behaviors causes much grief and takes up valuable time and energy. He advises don’t be casual about hiring for values that match your Organizational Constitution.

In the final pages of his book Chris Edmonds provides contact information I consider valuable to anyone who wants to learn more about this important subject of establishing a high-performing work environment. Chris says he’s active on Twitter (@scedmonds), Facebook (DrivingResultsThrough-Culture), LinkedIn (chrisedmonds) and Google+ (+SChrisEdmonds) For information about executive consulting and culture change process coaching, visit his website.

Enjoy this gratifying journey!


Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
JANE’s professional experience is scattered across industries from financial services and insurance to engineering and manufacturing. Jane sees her background in writing and editing website content as the foundation to her current love of social media. Being an avid reader, meticulous note taker and lifelong learner has fostered her natural pursuit of sharing her world through writing. Reading books and summarizing content started as a hobby and has since grown to be a major part of her vocational experience. Jane says, “Authors pour their heart and soul into writing their book. When I write a review, it’s with intent to celebrate the book and promote the author.” Jane claims to be 'the best follower you'll ever want to meet' and has been repeatedly called servant leader, eternal cheerleader, social media evangelist, and inspirational go-to person. Jane is a contributing author to the inspiring book Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational Change.

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