A business fable reveals the importance of leadership in a developing corporate culture.
In this book, McGoff (The Primes, 2011, etc.) tells the story of Carolyn Qualey, opening with the first day of work for the newly appointed CEO of Phossium Enterprises. Carolyn quickly learns that Phossium’s apathetic culture of buck-passing and stagnation is the reason the company is rapidly shedding customers. She understands that she will have to rebuild the employees’ way of thinking about work if the firm is going to succeed (“First, she had to follow the symptoms of Phossium’s default culture back to its roots, discover the cause, and destroy it at the source so the problems would go away for good”). Carolyn encounters resistance from the start, but she slowly discovers thoughtful and idealistic staffers willing to join her in taking responsibility for their actions and moving the company in a positive direction. She encourages some of the more disgruntled workers, especially on the leadership team, to depart. Carolyn also learns to temper her zeal for change with humility and empathy, motivating employees instead of issuing orders, and ultimately inspires a public display of loyalty from her staff. After Carolyn’s tale concludes, the final quarter of the book is a more straightforward presentation of the central message, highlighting the crucial lessons presented in the fictional account (“In a peak performance culture, the people and the organization, as a whole, maintain a posture of clear, shared intention, enabling the universe to assist in surprising ways”). The volume also presents helpful action items for executives looking to transform corporate cultures (“Think of this as getting a shared perspective on the underlying physics of the organization”). McGoff’s prose is measured and straightforward, presenting realistic solutions and avoiding hyperbole. The combination of fictional narrative and more traditional business book is an effective one, with the story engaging enough to serve as a canvas for the guide’s lessons. The line drawings by Nuttle (I Wonder, 2007) add a touch of whimsy to the work, reinforcing the allegorical facets of Carolyn’s tale. Although it is less concise than genre classics like Who Moved My Cheese? the manual is a useful tool for executives in search of inspiration.
A highly readable business book addressing key aspects of cultural change.