Leverage The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

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Leverage The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

John R. Childress

After the explosion and subsequent oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. BP’s CEO Tony Haywood, had employee deaths and a major environmental disaster on his hands. His reaction reflected the company’s focus on performance and cost control. This ultimately cost him his job, and the company remains well below its previous market capitalisation level.

In contrast, Johnson & Johnson’s handling of the Tylenol pain reliever incident in 1982, when seven people died from cyanide poisoning, was swift and open, with a focus on protecting the safety of the public, whatever the cost. The credo laid out by the original founders and followed by all staff, led to a complete recovery of its market share within a year.

 Few concepts in business contain so many powerful truths, and at the same time so much crap, as corporate culture.” John R. Childress

While Childress acknowledges that culture is not the only key to a successful company – luck and circumstance can have a lot to do with success – these two examples show just how important a pervading company culture can be.

The book has been published by Childress’ own consulting company, Principa Associates, and contains a wealth of ideas and suggestions drawing on the author’s 35 years’ worth of experience in working with companies to address cultural issues. Childress summarises culture as: the usual way we go about solving business problems, interacting with customers and treating each other. He has packed in a lot of thoughts on the definition, history, study, measurement and examples of culture at work, including:

As Childress says, a strong culture won’t make up for a poor strategy, and a great strategy can’t be delivered by a weak culture. While there may be no perfect corporate culture, recognising how important culture is, focussing on hiring staff that will strengthen it, and demonstrating your values every day will be critical components of your success.


About the author

John R. Childress co-founded Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group and has a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, and  Masters Degree from Harvard University.

John’s work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (including the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), and mergers and acquisitions with global organisations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250.

Born in Oregon, Childress was mainly based in London before retiring to France in 2001. He has written four thriller novels and has now established the Principia Group to work with senior teams on strategy execution and corporate culture.



(Childress) … points out that the most common mistake bosses make when they try to change cultures is to think in grandiose terms, whereas it is often the little things that matter most. “Sensible” might not sound like particularly high praise but, for a business book in this charlatan-infested field, it is an accolade worth having.” The Economist

“You need to read this book before your CEO does!” Frank Tempesta, former CEO, Textron Systems Companies


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Book Details

Author: John R. Childress

ISBN: 978-0957517974