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Win from Within

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Win from Within

Build Organizational Culture for Competitive Advantage

Columbia Business School Publishing,

15 min read
9 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

With planning and the right strategies, you can create an effective, successful corporate culture.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable
  • Overview
  • Concrete Examples


James Heskett, one of the most eminent business educators of the 20th century, offers a deep dive into how to build a successful organizational culture. Heskett, UPS Foundation Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School, explains that having a strong culture does not always guarantee marketplace success. He tells you how to build and maintain a winning culture while avoiding the pitfalls of a culture that is strong but also toxic. Heskett maintains that leaders can shift a company’s culture in a matter of months. To that end, he offers many research-based examples that will be highly useful to everyone involved in managing organizations.


Evidence does not support most of the common wisdom about organizational culture.

A strong culture isn’t necessarily a winning asset. Companies with strong cultures can be winners or losers, depending on the nature of their culture and the context it creates for corporate strategy.Forward-looking leaders find culture and strategy complementary. For example, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella simultaneously healed its dysfunctional culture and led a major strategic shift from Windows to cloud computing. He demonstrated that the right leader can change a company’s culture in months.

The leaders of companies that falter mistakenly often assume that what worked in the past will continue to work. Their leaders resist new ideas.

An effective culture boosts the bottom line, and fosters flexibility, innovation, and learning.

The competitive advantage of an effective culture can outlive that of any strategy. Working only from cultural information, analysts can predict a company’s relative profitability. Using internal and external data, they can estimate how culture affects profit and use ...

About the Author

James Heskett is the UPS Foundation Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School, where he previously served as faculty chair of the MBA program.

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    Z. X. 7 months ago
    Culture is the soul of company.
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    A. N. 12 months ago
    Gives leaders a lot to think about, appreciate the helpful tips at the end.
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    M. P. 12 months ago