Cover Image: The Culture Playbook

The Culture Playbook

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Member Reviews

I think culture is one of the most important things in a workplace. I would be willing to make less money but work in a culture that values the same things that I do and with a team that I enjoy working with over making more money but being unhappy.

As a manager, I spend a lot of time thinking about culture at work and what are ways that we can continue to make it better for our work teams. I went into The Culture Playbook from this lens - looking for ways to continue to improve our work culture. I appreciated some of the lessons shared and activities - particularly when it comes to vulnerability. The biggest standout to me is that people think they should build trust and then can show vulnerability when it's really the reverse and showing that vulnerability is how we work to build trust as a team. 

I think this is a book that is probably best used as a source to dip back into over time and try different actions. Reading it straight through felt repetitive at times but I don't think that's really the best way to use this resource. I also appreciated that the book made a point to call out hybrid and remote strategies as well as more typical in person actions.

Thank you to Bantam for the advance reading copy.
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Daniel Coyle’s The Culture Code was a book that I appreciated reading a few years back. It deconstructed effective organizational culture quite well, and I learned quite a few things that remain helpful at work.

It’s for this reason that I was delighted to learn that Coyle had written a follow-up. The Culture Playbook: 60 Highly Effective Actions to Help Your Group Succeed is a practical guide to help build lasting and productive organizational culture, and once gain I found myself learning a thing or two that I know can make good organizations even better.

As the name suggests The Culture Playbook is a literal playbook for leaders in search of techniques to make their organizational culture more cohesive and effective. It contains sixty suggestions for activities that leaders can use to help bring out the best within their organization(s), one team at a time. Admittedly, I found some of the suggestions to border on formulaic, which is really not my style. Nonetheless, in each case I appreciated the thoughtfulness (not to mention the thought process) evident in each suggestion.

And let me just say: number 17 is a real winner. Because caffeine.

What’s perhaps most interesting about The Culture Playbook is that Coyle has already anticipated and incorporated in his thinking the shift to teams working remotely. As such, all of the suggestions for how to foment a sense of togetherness and joint purpose even in a distributed working environment feel not only relevant but necessary.
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The Culture Playbook is a short workbook to help teams consider how they can more create better culture and become a more effective team. I liked the short, actionable sections and open-ended questions to spur brainstorming and conversations. This will be a great tool for managers and employees looking to strengthen morale.  

Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for providing this ARC. All thoughts are my own.
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The Culture Playbook builds on Daniel Coyle’s earlier book, The Culture Code, defining 60 concise, actionable, scientifically proven tips for developing great groups.

So, if you wish to develop greater group cohesion and safety, generate much higher levels of trust and be more transparent on purpose, I highly recommend this book.

As an additional bonus, Daniel also offers a set of conversation starters and exercises that will help you assess and improve your current team culture.

As Stephen Covey once said, reading The Culture Playbook will help you sharpen your saw. You, the leader, control great culture, and Daniel Coyle shows you how! The culture you have comes from the actions you take. Here’s a great book to help you work out where you need to improve.
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"The Culture Paybook" describes itself as "60 Highly Effective Actions to Help Your Group Succeed" and it pretty much does what it says on the cover in that regard. And, with 60 tips, as they are called within the book, there are no doubt some that will resonate more than others. Some that will be more relevant, some that will seem like a bad fit. But, with 60 to choose from it's likely fair to say that most people will be able to find something that gives them an idea to work with.

For me, there were two big aspects of the book that I really liked. But first, a very minor niggle. Despite the headline note of it being about "your group" the book is essentially written as purely a corporate/business guide. It does draw in examples of professional sports teams and the constant favourite of any team building concept - the military. Which are ultimately still fairly corporate environments. People are still part of a group being paid to do a job. It's a small detail, but one that is worth considering at times. Many of the ideas can be used in other settings, more of that later, but the book talks about things like effective meetings and other corporate culture ideas.

Something I really did appreciate given the business focus was the effort to look at remote workers. Tips that are especially relevant to ensuring remote members of a group feel included were marked with a little WFH icon and there was a good proportion of ideas that looked at both fully remote and hybrid workplaces which I think does give a lot of the ideas here new life and relevance.

As good as that is, it underlines the way I think this book doesn't look hard enough at something it actually does pretty well - being relevant outside of business.

In truth, this book has many ideas that could potentially apply to any group even if they are only framed in terms of businesses. The remote workers? Many of us have family members who live considerable distances away. Now that video meetings and other remote work tools have become normalised, there is a place for them in other groups, such as families, too. And whilst some of the WFH tips may not be suitable for a remote family gathering, as someone who has lived and worked considerable distances from my closest family members, I can see how some of the thinking could have been used by us.

Another aspect that the book talks a lot about is a culture of safety. How people only share fears and concerns with people when they feel safe in the many ways that apply, and it does look at it in from accepting personal mistakes right through to societal and demographic issues. Again, this feels like a healthy update on the many business books written even a few years ago. But, despite being slightly less absolute in the business focus than the WFH tips, I also found myself thinking about other groups, especially families.

We have all heard nightmarish stories of dealing with in-laws, or awkward Christmas dinners as a relative you may have little in common with besides a family tie goes off on a subject that causes friction. Again, subjects that can be both very individual and personal, or relevant to the wider world such as politics. By considering some of the tips on how to ensure staff feel safe and accepted, perhaps spending time with our families could be more enjoyable.

This brings me back to that cover blurb about helping "Your Group". A number of these tips do apply to a wide array of groups. Essentially, any group that includes people who may not necessarily choose to be around each other, even in small subsets and minimal doses, could potentially take something away from the tips in the book. But they're essentially all presented as business tips. Sure, it's easier to get everyone in a group to take part in some activities when they're paid to be there, but if that aggressive relative could learn why they make people feel uncomfortable when criticising others' clothes/jobs/partners then why not give at least some tips a try?

Essentially, as with many similar books, the strength of the writing is really found in the interpretation of the reader. The difficulty that always arises is that those who would benefit most from the advice often struggle to see such books as anything other than a definitive set of rules.

As an example, early on the book brings up the, now somewhat cliched, "two pizza rule" for meetings. It carefully lays out that 6 is the maximum ideal number for a meeting. And then late in the book gives a number of exercises for groups of 8 or 10. Because adapting is an important tool too, possibly one of the most important in fact. If your group has 7 people would you really build a stronger culture by excluding someone to ensure you don't go over 6? Of course not. But when I look back at the group leaders I've encountered with the weakest cultures, I also realise that they would adopt that as a rigid rule no matter what.

Overall the book remains good, even the recommended exercises are well presented so that people like me who tend to dislike such things can quickly move on to the next section. I just feel that it sells itself short. It makes a bold proclamation that doesn't mention business, and then makes it all about work. It even offers a lot of ideas that can be used in the abstract manner it suggests, but it never fully embraces that potential. I feel I want to keep a number of these tips in mind going forward. Even if sometimes they're variations.
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This book was an easy to read crash course into 60 important steps to get great culture. It doesn't go in depth in any one area, more just a best practices book that can be easy to get good ideas from. Worth the quick read for sure.
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If you work in any organization or work on any team, mark your calendars for May 3, 2022 to buy this book!  I often write that I measure how much value I received from a business book by how many notes I took.  In this case it's by the fact that I highlighted 61 concepts that I will be adding to my toolbox for the work I do with teams.  I have received great value from all of Daniel Coyle's books I have read and I was a bit hesitant that this one would be too repetitive or too light.  I was wrong!  It ignores all of the background and research and focuses on providing tactical concepts and activities that anyone can use immediately.  The research and science is important and he and others have covered that in many books.  This book is different and it is very well done!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an early release in exchange for a fair an honest review.
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