REVIEWED: The Insider's Guide to Culture Change

Siobhan McHale’s The Insider’s Guide to Culture Change is an ambitious work with a great deal of potential. It covers a wide range of the functions of leadership, with a massive number of case studies both from the business school repertoire and the author’s personal experience. Unfortunately, these elements are also the reason the book is a disappointment as a tool for practitioners.

The premise of the book is a system for intervention to create cultural change. McHale calls this “the cultural disruptor”. The stages are, in my words:

  • Explore culture, identify excellence and goals

  • Diagnose patterns that produce negative results

  • Change patterns by acting on roles and policies

  • Measure impact with business goals, repeat as necessary

This approach has many of the same characteristics and interactions as a functional intervention in relationships. An exploration of a parallel system would complement an understanding of the functional approach, and the cultural disruptor structure offers some interesting perspectives. Her discussion of roles as a means of cultural change is insightful. Separating roles from what McHale calls instincts and personality is useful to the degree that it facilitates behavioral change and the creation of a productive functional environment. There are a half dozen or so other nuggets throughout the book.

Unfortunately, moving beyond this is where the book fails to reach its potential. As a pedagogical tool, case studies are difficult to turn into real-works behavior, and this book exemplifies the challenge. Theory and implementation are tucked away in paragraph after paragraph of stories, requiring