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I just finished the book Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh (pronounced Shay) and was left with a certain sense of incompleteness.  The story was compelling enough and those who read my posts know that I share the grammatical problems Tony discusses at the beginning of the book.  But the message on culture is what makes me feel uneasy.

I have written about Zappos before and was critical of a few things in the post Zappos’ Achilles Heelthat drew comments from some folks from Zappos that gave me insight.  Sorry Zappos, I am still annoyed by the 8% cut as I believe trust is compromised when you lay-off people to shore up the financials.  This is a mentality that keeps too many on the unemployment roles and companies slasing their economic wrists.  This isn’t to say there aren’t imes, I am not that naive, but when you wear the sign that advertises one of the best companies to work for you need to have a different and better game than the same old bean counter approach.

In another post titled Want an Incredible Customer Experience? Don’t Copy Zappos, Apple or Disney.  In this post, I warn the copycats of the world to not do this.  While reading Tony’s book this was reinforced, he almost went bankrupt on many occasions and the culture that developed was emergent, not copied.  When he attempted to copy “good business practice” and outsource he put the company in peril.  Tony says, “Don’t outsource your core competency and I say . . . “It’s all your core competency.”  Over and over, again I warn customers and readers to not outsource as they often do it for the wrong reasons – to save money.

Your culture is your brand was a theme throughout the book.  Yet, culture was still emergent from having focus on doing things for customers and viewing things outside-in and not inside-out.  The book gives the impression that a focus on improving culture makes things better, so look for a new generation of surveys, team exercises, balloon kicking, group hugs . . . oh, and of course culture books and smiley face wrist bands.  The problem is that you organization has the same old crappy command and control style of management and work design that will rain on that parade.

Tony Hsieh has built something unique, but it is not him, it was the people that built the system and he was able to get out of the way just enough for some good things to happen.  Whether this continues is dependent on how much he puts into moving away from command and control culture and toward one that puts decision-making with the work and far away from the bean counters that stand to drag down both culture and company.

Leave me a comment. . . share your opinion!  Click on comments below.

Make the new decade a profitable and rewarding one, start a new path here.  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about how to get started at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

Tripp Babbitt is a columist (Quality Digest and IQPC), speaker, and consultant to private and public service industry.

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