Probably the most well known and acknowledged organisational culture expert in the world, Ed Schein, was our guest shortly after he celebrated his 90th birthday. And he is not planning to slow down any time soon! His new book, “Humble Leadership” is coming out in July 2018 (you can pre-order it on Amazon) and he has plenty of new projects in the works with his son and other associates (check it out here).

One of the main takeaways from my conversation with Ed is that there is no getting away from it – the person ultimately responsible for organisational culture is the leader. It’s what they do, what they pay attention to, and what they encourage and reward that will ultimately shape the organisation’s culture. Interestingly, it is also what the leaders don’t do and don’t pay attention to that can be a tremendously powerful culture shaping factor. As Ed said in the interview:

When it comes to culture, you get what you settle for.

Grab your headphones, turn up the volume, relax and listen to the interview with Ed Schein here:

Prefer listening on iTunes or Stitcher? Just click below.

Ed Schein had a pretty extraordinary childhood. His Czech father, a physics professor, met Ed’s mother in Zurich, Switzerland. That’s where the couple got married and where Ed was born and spent the first years of his life. When he was six, the political tensions of the time forced the family move. They chose Odessa in the Soviet Union as their new home. While his father studied cosmic rays in the Caucasus, Ed learned Russian and got acquainted with Russian culture. Three years passed and Stalin came into power. This is when Ed’s family decided to move in search of a safer home. Eventually, his father got a job in Chicago but in the interim, Ed spent a year in Prague, picking up Czech and getting to know his father’s country. In 1938, the family finally moved to Chicago where Ed started learning how to be American. By the time Ed was an adolescent, he had already experienced four different cultures and spoke 4 languages. No wonder that later on in life, culture became the predominant topic of his academic research and consulting work.

What you will learn in this episode

  • What the #1 attribute of a successful culture is
  • When to be concerned about your team’s or organisation’s culture
  • What people in organisations pay most attention to when it comes to factors that shape culture
  • When culture is particularly important for an organisation
  • What changing a culture really entails
  • Whether small, light-touch interventions can be effective in changing culture
  • When it makes sense to evaluate culture using quantitative and qualitative tools (and when it doesn’t!)
  • What a CEO or a leader should do when they want to see more of a coaching or innovation culture in their organisation
  • What Ed thinks of starting culture projects “in the middle”
  • What “personizing” is and why it’s important

More about the guest

Edgar Schein is a Society of Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus and a Professor Emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He made a notable mark on the field of organizational development. He is well known for his groundbreaking work on the Organizational culture model.

You can find more about Ed’s and his son’s work on

Books mentioned in this episode

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