Culture and Human Energy

Gustavo Grodnitzky Organizational Culture, Organizational Effectiveness

I’ve been speaking on the topic of culture for the past 10 years.  I’ve been reading on the subject for more than 20 years.  There are a lot of books published on culture.  They all, including my own – Culture Trumps Everything – take a similar approach.  They introduce a particular concept, explain why it is important to organizational culture, and then offer a snippet of a specific organization that has applied the concept correctly and/or incorrectly, and discuss the consequences.

I recently read – and was honored to be asked to write the foreword for – a new book on organizational culture, “Unleashing Human Energy through Culture Change” by Donald L. Rust and Alan G. Weinstein.  This book is truly ground breaking on several levels.

First, the authors:  Don Rust started as an engineer at General Motors (GM) – and went on to become a plant manager at the Tonawanda Engine Plant, which was the largest and most efficient engine plant in the world.  And it was, in large part, Don’s understanding of the power of culture that fueled both his success and the success of the Tonawanda plant.  This book is a first-hand account of how a single person can help build a culture – or, more specifically, a subculture – inside a larger organization that creates world-class performance inside that individual’s sphere of influence.  Don is an engineer who saw problems that needed to be fixed – and fixed them – through his ability to leverage the power of culture.

Alan Weinstein brings to the book the structure, broad-based understanding, and accessibility of a successful psychologist working in the field of organizational consulting.  He does a masterful job of illuminating the critical insights and implications of the stories from Don and the Tonawanda plant.

Second, the application of specific concepts to culture over time:  This book is unique in its ability to document the steps and experiences of the more than 40-year career of a single person, Donald Rust, in a single organization – and how that person applied specific concepts around culture to improve performance, no matter where he was in the organization.  It is also unique because it leverages the knowledge and business acumen of an organizational psychologist with experiences across multiple organizations, Alan Weinstein – and focuses these perspectives on the history of a single organization, as told through the perspective of one long and successful career.

This book is a labor of love by both authors, written to remind one organization of how it has achieved greatness in the past – and to shine a light into a dark and uncertain future, so that other organizations can achieve a similar greatness.  The authors have focused on organizational culture because they both understand that culture has the potential to unleash human energy and provide an organization with a tremendous competitive advantage – because culture does, indeed, trump everything.

I strongly recommend it for anyone who is an organizational leader and/or a student of organizational culture who wants to build a competitive advantage for their organization.