I first read this book a long time ago, and now I’m reading it again. I’ve always found the first sentence fascinating.
We measure everything at work except what counts. Numbers are comforting – income, expenditure, productivity, engagement, staff turnover – and create an illusion of control. But when we’re confronted with spectacular success or failure, everyone points in the same direction: The culture.”– Margaret Heffernan, Beyond Measure
A lot of this book is about social cohesion, which Margaret describes as ‘the mortar between the bricks in an organisation and what makes the wheels turn’. It’s all about how the relationships in an organisation that makes things happen.
Margaret made me realise that when your business’ organisational structure is clear, the right people are in roles, and accountability is fine. Still, something isn’t working; the reason is because people aren’t connecting. They’ve not clicked, they don’t like each other, and they don’t know each other yet. Fixing this, even in a fully remote world, with multiple geographically dispersed offices, only requires tiny, small changes that are very achievable and hugely powerful.
As a leader, it’s natural to look at the outputs for a business, what comes out of sales, what comes out of renewals. But, to some extent, they’re just an output of the stuff that’s going on in the middle. And a mistake that is often made is to think of teams and departments as discrete boxes. So for more sales, we look to invest in the sales department. If there is a renewal issue we must be able to fix it within client services. But actually, I think companies are interconnected living systems and that’s what this book is about really. It’s about getting your organisation to function in a really well-connected way.
The other reason I chose this book was that it introduced me to Margaret Heffernan’s other work. She’s an amazing, multiple time CEO, author and speaker, and this book led me to her work like Wilfull Blindness, which is about what happens when people or organisations don’t see, speak up or talk about what’s right in front of them. I think she’s one of the most important business experts and writers that I know. Watch any of her TED Talks or podcasts or read any of her books, you won’t be disappointed.