A book for leaders to shape their organisational culture

Tim Urban's 1,000-page book on human history
5. General

A book for leaders to shape their organisational culture

An organisation’s culture is like space.

Let me elaborate with a brief foray into physics.

Isaac Newton – known for his discovery of the gravitational force – thought of space as a great empty container, a large box that enclosed the universe. But he could not say what this space was made of.

Einstein surmised that the gravitational force must be conveyed by a field (much like the ‘electromagnetic field’).

And here’s physicist Carlo Rovelli (author of ‘Seven Brief Lessons on Physics’) describing Einstein’s moment of genius:
“And it is at this point that an extraordinary idea occurred to him (Einstein), a stroke of pure genius: the gravitational field is not diffused through space; the gravitational field is that space itself. This is the idea of the theory of general relativity. Newton’s ‘space’, through which things move, and the ‘gravitational field’ are one and the same thing.”

An organisation’s culture is like the ‘space’ of its universe.

Like space, culture cannot be seen, but it can be felt and experienced.

Like space, culture holds everything and everyone in the organizational universe: the shining stars, the orbiting planets and satellites, the roving comets, the irregular asteroids…

And like space, culture exerts tremendous force – it famously “eats strategy for breakfast”.

But while humans cannot influence the most powerful force in the universe, they do have a way to influence their organisation’s culture.

That’s right – founders can actually mould their company’s culture in their desired shape.

But it is not something that happens on its own. One cannot just ‘hire the right people and expect the right culture to form’. Or ‘focus on growth and leave culture for later’. Or ‘hope that a few foosball tables, beer parties, and Secret Santa events would help in shaping the right culture’.

For, as Sirisha and Harish attest, if you want your desired culture to take shape: ‘Hope is not a Strategy’.

In a staggering work of scholarship, their first book (hopefully of many) lays out a detailed playbook for leaders to deliberately shape the culture of their company. In other words, this book teaches you how to ‘Align by Design’.

The heart of the book is their proprietary ‘Dilemmas Resolution Framework’ – a detailed and comprehensive breakdown of the many interconnected ‘dilemmas’ (or choices) that leaders need to contend with while shaping the culture.

‘Hope is not a Strategy’ is like a detailed instruction manual – with all the core elements, influencing factors, and instructions – that any set of leaders can read and follow to mould their space.

Of course, given the criticality and fiendishly difficult nature of the journey, it would be useful to have seasoned travelers (and expert navigators) like Harish and Sirisha by your side, as you embark on the trip.

Happy culture building!

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