40 minutes | Feb 1st 2021

296: Great business culture is observable in the interactions of its people with Kevin Oakes

Kevin Oakes, author of Culture Renovation: 18 Leadership Actions to Build an Unshakeable Company

Kevin Oakes and Bill Ringle discuss how business culture can be approached similar to a home renovation – perfecting one area at a time – for small business leaders.

>>> Visit MyQuestforTheBest.com  for complete show notes and more expert advice and inspiring stories to propel your small business growth.

Top 3 Take-Aways from this Interview
  • Only 15% of attempted culture change efforts are highly successful.
  • Progressive organizations view change not only as normal and expected but as an opportunity.
  • Senior management often bypasses the all-important planning phase and begins without garnering any insight from the workforce.
Tweet-Ready Insights from this Episode

Successful companies renovate their culture and keep the values, purpose, vision, and mission that made them great, to begin with. #MQ4B Ep296 with Kevin Oakes (@KMOakes), author of Culture Renovation
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Leaders need a listening strategy where they get down to the ground level and seek to understand what the culture is all about. #MQ4B Ep296 with Kevin Oakes (@KMOakes), author of Culture Renovation
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Organizations also must have a plan in place to measure and monitor the progress of the initiative before moving on to build. #MQ4B Ep296 with Kevin Oakes (@KMOakes), author of Culture Renovation
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Culture change includes ferreting out skeptics and establishing a co-creation mindset. #MQ4B Ep296 with Kevin Oakes (@KMOakes), author of Culture Renovation: 18 Leadership Actions to Build an Unshakeable Company
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Companies should invest in training at all levels and the organizations’ ability to embrace the desired behaviors. #MQ4B Ep296 with Kevin Oakes (@KMOakes), author of Culture Renovation
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Measure the performance of people when they set out to change their culture. #MQ4B Ep296 with Kevin Oakes (@KMOakes), author of Culture Renovation: 18 Leadership Actions to Build an Unshakeable Company
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Success or failure of a cultural transformation is largely dependent on how an organization views change. #MQ4B Ep296 with Kevin Oakes (@KMOakes), author of Culture Renovation: 18 Leadership Actions to Build an Unshakeable Company
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Support and contribution from the workforce, particularly the 'influencers and energizers,' is also critical. #MQ4B Ep296 with Kevin Oakes (@KMOakes), author of Culture Renovation: 18 Leadership Actions to Build an Unshakeable Company
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Great companies demonstrate traits of a healthy culture, like bringing out the best in employees, nurturing innovation, and being collaborative. #MQ4B Ep296 with Kevin Oakes (@KMOakes), author of Culture Renovation
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Secure buy-in from leaders, survey your workforce, and understand what needs to change and what doesn’t. #MQ4B Ep296 with Kevin Oakes (@KMOakes), author of Culture Renovation: 18 Leadership Actions to Build an Unshakeable Company
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Surveying and talking to employees about what the culture currently looks like is the best way to understand what needs to change. #MQ4B Ep296 with Kevin Oakes (@KMOakes), author of Culture Renovation
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Adjust your people management processes to ensure they align with your new culture. #MQ4B Ep296 with Kevin Oakes (@KMOakes), author of Culture Renovation: 18 Leadership Actions to Build an Unshakeable Company
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Interview Insights

Read the Show Notes from this Episode

  • Kevin shared how his father influenced him to have a good work ethic and getting out of this comfort zone. [1:14]
  • Kevin shows us the importance of agility as a key trait in a company. [9:30] 
  • Kevin highlights culture change or transformation and company renovation. [10:09] 
  • Kevin identifies some companies that he discussed in his book as companies who rested on their laurels. [10:38]
  • Kevin emphasizes kill the company community that will help your company stay competitive. [11:58] 
  • Kevin mentions successful companies are companies that view change as an opportunity. [13:28]
  • Kevin reveals top management should lead to culture change and discusses co-creation mentality. [14:18]
  • Kevin underlines the importance of checkin’ into the workforce regarding their organizational culture before checkin’ on your customers. [15:35]
  • Kevin discussed that a successful CEO is not afraid to embrace change and they are transparent. [19:17]
  • Kevin points out that culture dictates performance. [19:54]
  • Kevin calls attention to culture change laggards as a challenge and how to deal with them. [21:33]
  • Kevin discuss organizational technique analysis. [22:50]
  • My Quest for the Best Lightning Round begins [26:11]

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Expert Bio

Kevin Oakes is the author of CULTURE RENOVATION: 18 Leadership Actions to Build an Unshakeable Company (McGraw-Hill; Dec. 15, 2020). He is also the CEO and co-founder of the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), the leading authority on next practices in human capital. i4cp produces more research than any other human capital research firm on the planet. Supported by a powerful community of human capital practitioners, i4cp provides insights that help organizations better anticipate, adapt, and act in a constantly changing business environment.

Kevin is currently on the board of Performitiv, a performance improvement technology company. Kevin is also on the advisory boards of EdCast, a knowledge network firm, and Sanctuary, a health and wellness startup. Kevin was previously on the board of directors of KnowledgeAdvisors, a provider of human capital analytics software, which was purchased by the Corporate Executive Board in March of 2014. Kevin was also the Chairman of Jambok, a social learning start-up company that was founded at Sun Microsystems and was purchased by SuccessFactors in March 2011. He also served on the boards of Workforce Insight and Koru prior to their sales.

Kevin is on the board of Best Buddies Washington and helped establish the first office for Best Buddies in the state in 2019. Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

Kevin was previously the Founder and the President of SumTotal Systems (NASDAQ: SUMT) which he helped create in 2003 by merging Click2learn (NASDAQ: CLKS) with Docent (NASDAQ: DCNT). The merger won Frost & Sullivan’s Competitive Strategy Award in 2004.

Prior to the formation of SumTotal, Kevin was the Chairman & CEO of Click2learn, which was founded in 1985 by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. Prior to joining Click2learn, Kevin was president and founder of Oakes Interactive in Needham, MA. Oakes Interactive was purchased by Click2learn (then called Asymetrix) in 1997, which Kevin helped take public a year later.


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Contact Info for Kevin Oakes

Web address: http://www.i4cp.com/

Travels from: Seattle, WA

Social Media Links

Twitter | LinkedIn 

​Books Authored by Kevin Oakes



Resources Mentioned During the Interview

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