Episode 119

Why You Should Renovate Rather than Transform Your Culture with Kevin Oakes

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Kevin Oakes is the author of Culture Renovation: 18 Leadership Actions to Build an Unshakeable Company. He is also CEO and co-founder of i4cp, the leading HR research firm that discovers the people practices of high-performance organizations. Kevin has been a pioneer in the human capital field for 25 years and is an international keynote speaker on culture, talent management, leadership, innovation, diversity, metrics, and strategic learning in organizations. He founded and served as President of SumTotal Systems, one of the largest providers of talent and learning solutions in the world, a company originally founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.


  • Only about 15% of companies that attempted a culture change succeeded.
  • Most organization talks about culture transformation. The best ones renovate—maintaining what made them great to begin with while making themselves more resilient for the future.
  • The most successful companies have leaders who don’t assume they know what the culture of their company is. They use data that is gathered frequently and broadly.
  • Identify the influencers/energizers and the blockers within your organization. Use the former to be culture ambassadors.
  • Determining how progress will be measured is a key predictor of the success of a culture change. Two-thirds of companies that successfully changed did this. Ninety percent of unsuccessful companies did not do this.


  • What is some lesson, saying, or experience that continues to influence your leadership to this day? The idea of “open-book management”—managing a company transparently. It is both better and easier.
  • Use three descriptors to finish this sentence: “A leader is…” Honest, visionary, and clear.
  • What is a question that leaders should be asking either themselves or others? What more do I need to learn, and where should I focus that effort?
  • What book would you recommend to leaders? A Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone by Greg Shaw, Jill Tracie Nichols, and Satya Nadella
  • If you could get every listener to start doing something THIS week to help them be a better leader, what would it be? Take time to invest in yourself (not by exercising or eating better but by reading or gaining other information instead of simply giving it to others).
  • As a general life principle, is it better to ask “why?” or “why not?” “Why?” because you can question the conventional thinking, though the same philosophy can be behind in the question “why not?”



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Josh Friedeman

Josh Friedeman is a coach who works with organizations to improve their efficiency and revenue. Learn more about him and his guests on his two podcasts, "Business Bitcoinization" and "Life as Leadership." To explore working with Josh, visit friedemanleadership.com.