• Toby Sinclair

The Insider's Guide to Culture Change by Siobhan McHale

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Toby's Rating: 7/10 | Recommended For: Senior Managers | Category: Culture

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💡 3 Big Ideas from The Insider's Guide to Culture Change


The Insider's Guide to Culture Change helps you lead culture change:


  1. Patterns are the most important aspect of culture change. If you do not break the pattern, culture will not change. They are the overriding, often unwritten rules that govern how people relate to one another and do their work. Patterns, not explicit values and behaviour, govern culture.

  2. Too often leaders focus on the parts of the system rather than the whole. Culture doesn't change by only focusing on values or behaviours. You need to change the system. Think of culture like a spider's web. It's not sufficient to only change the threads, you must change the web.

  3. There are four steps to disrupting a culture: 1) Diagnose what’s really going on, 2) Reframe the roles, 3) Break the patterns, 4) Consolidate the gains


💬 2 Best Quotes from The Insider's Guide to Culture Change


The Insiders Guide To Culture Change

My definition of workplace culture is “The patterns or agreements that determine how the business operates.” A simplified version that I commonly use is: “It’s how things work around here”.
Culture emerges not from a proclamation or code of ethics but from how people, especially the organization’s leaders, behave day in and day out.

Tobys Top Takeaway


There is a widespread myth:


If you state the values you want your people to practice, they will automatically alter their behaviour accordingly.

The Insider's Guide to Culture Change debunks this myth perfectly.


In the work, I've led around culture I've focused on systems, behaviour and stories. Sibohans book helped me to identify a blind spot in how I've been approaching culture change. Namely around patterns.


Instead of focusing on individual behaviours, focus on patterns of behaviour. What behaviours are repeated?


To change a culture you must find the pattern, raise awareness of the pattern and then reverse it.


Example patterns:

  • “We don’t like to give bad news"

  • “We step down and micromanage,”

  • “It’s OK to bully and harass people around here.”

Easier said than done.


But shifting focus to patterns of behaviour, rather than individual behaviour will help.


👉 Do This


In your interactions today, listen out for patterns of behaviour. If you think you've found one, write it in a notebook. Each time you observe that pattern make a note. In a few weeks see which patterns are most dominant.



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Big Ideas Expanded 💡


Some additional extracts around patterns:


Patterns are the overriding, often unwritten rules that govern how people relate to one another and do their work.

Think of patterns like a web. The behaviours are the threads, the pattern is the web as a whole. Too many leaders concentrate on the threads (the behaviours) instead of the patterns (the web) that govern behaviour in the organization.


Spiders Web

Patterns have three qualities:


1 - Hard to detect


Sometimes formally stated, but quite often hidden and unwritten, patterns resist easy detection.


2- Collective


People can come and go from your business, but the patterns tend to remain the same. They sit at the collective or systemic level in the organization. They are the agreements or the ways of relating between the parts of the organization.


3 - Cocreated


Patterns function like the rules of dance, telling people how to move. “Put your left foot in, take your left foot out.” Systems experts say that patterns are co-created, meaning that it takes two to tango.


People may come and go from your workplace, but the patterns tend to remain the same.

Patterns, not explicit values and behaviour, govern culture.


Finding the Big Patterns


Effective change leaders don’t just sit on their perches high in the C-suite; they spend a lot of time walking around the organization, talking to people at every level in every functional area, and keenly observing “how things work around here.” They bring a good set of eyes and ears to the task, observing the ways of relating and listening carefully to what people say about their work, their colleagues, their department, their boss, and the company.


Buy The Insider's Guide to Culture Change on Amazon