Have you noticed that culture is the new black? Maybe it’s because I work with business leaders so often, but culture seems to be on everyone’s minds and lips. It seems like I can’t hear a discussion about a problem at work where the big bad creature called “culture” isn’t blamed. So is culture actually to blame? Well, probably… but because of the way we discuss culture or define it we miss a big piece of the puzzle. I define culture in a simple model and talk about it as a living system. My working understanding of culture and change has come about after 20 years of working in this space and also by reading… a lot. There are good “culture” books and there are not so good one. Many say the same thing over and over which is tiresome. And many don’t give practical advice that helps you to create the culture you want. Below are 5 books that I believe are helpful for leaders to understand the impact culture has on business. These books take you beyond “behaviour” into the systems and philosophy of business culture. Hope you enjoy them…

#1 Onward: How Starbucks Fought for its life without losing its soul – Howard Schultz

Howard provides a very honest (although sometimes egotistical) recount of Starbucks fall from grace and how he and his team rebuilt the business. He talks about how important working on the culture was to rebuilding the brand reputation of Starbucks. This a great one for people who are tackling their culture because its ended up somewhere they hadn’t intended.

#2 Creativity Inc, Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration – Ed Catmull

If I could only choose one culture book to recommend it would be this one. Ed is the Managing Director and Founder of Pixar. He is transparent and generous in sharing the Pixar story. He’s clear about how they have embedded their values into day to day operations. This book is not about Pixar the movie company it’s about how to build a company that produces high quality and creative products. Plus he gives a behind the scenes to all the Pixar movies you love. Woody, Buzz, Lightning McQueen, The Incredibles and culture change what more could you want?

#3 Above the Line: How to Create a Company Culture that Engages Employees, Delights Customers and Delivers Results – Michael Henderson

Thank you Michael for this practical book. So many culture books are written by psychologists and many organisations hire organisational psychologists to help them with their culture. This thing is, psychology is about the individual and culture is about the collective. Michael Henderson is a Corporate Anthropologist and provides a practical approach to culture from an anthropological approach. He also gave one of my favourite quotes about culture in this book. “Is culture the new thing in business? No, business is the new thing in culture.”

#4 Powerful, Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility – Patty McCord

Too many companies leave culture to HR. If you’re on one of those companies and in HR then this is the book for you. Patty was the HR brains behind the Netflix culture program – she had lots of help of course but this book runs through culture from a HR perspective and talks about the people systems that need attention to create a great culture. Read the book and download Netflix culture book. They release a new one each year and it’s a great demonstration on how to bring values to life.

#5 The Fifth Discipline – Peter Senge 

Peter Senge is one of the grandfathers of change. If you are managing a large complex transformation, like culture change, you need to read this book. Senge provides readers with a holistic understanding of learning organisations and organisational development by demonstrating the systems thinking required for transformational change.

And of course the bonus:

Culture Inc, Create a business that delivers results and people love by Michelle T Holland. 

Well, I couldn’t recommend a reading list of culture books without adding my own, could I? Culture Inc is a how-to guide of culture change. It attempts to simplify a complex and wicked problem. I look at culture and change using a simple and practical methodology that describes culture and business as a living system. If you are asking yourself “where do I start?” This book tells you. Grab your copy here if you’re embarking on a journey of change. PS: Booktopia has is on special 29% off for a limited time. Culture evolves over time but won’t evolve where you want without diligence and attention.

Grab these books to understand the time, energy and effort needed to create transformation if that’s your goal. Otherwise, just grab these book and enjoy a great read.