What You Do Is Who You Are Book Review

How to Create Your Business Culture

“Revel in being discarded, or having all your energies exhausted in vain; only those who have endured hardship will be of use. Samurai who have never erred before will never have what it takes.” (Hagakure, Book of the Samurai)

What You Do Is Who You Are by Ben Horowitz is a book about how to create your business culture. Horowitz explains how culture is difficult to set and how it can transform into something itself if unmanaged. In WYDIWYA Horowitz turns historian and pulls together four examples from history to provide insight on building great culture. These historical figures include Toussaint Louverture (Led successful slave revolt / Haitian Revolution), Genghis Khan, Samurai Culture, and Shaka Senghor. These examples are cherry-picked and you’re not going to get a complete historical lesson in any of them but they drive home the keys which are important for building culture.

Key to Culture:

  • Culture is what people do when you (leaders) are not around.

  • Walk the Talk - Live Your Code. Leaders lead by example. Believe your principles. Culture reflects the values and actions of the leaders.

  • Actions > Words. What you do is who you are. (Sometimes object lessons are necessary to prove your point - Sun Tzu beheading - story that opens Art of War)

  • New employee orientation is cultural orientation and one of the most important things to get right.

  • Shocking rules: think about how you can shock your organization into cultural compliance.

  • Make decisions that demonstrate priorities. Daily meetings on a topic signal it’s importance.

This is a good book on building culture. It’s a short and easy read. You’ll want to read it to get the context for the keys above. If you’re leading a company or founding a startup, you’ll want to make sure you are not making a mistake with setting it’s culture. In the end, I could have done without the history lessons. I enjoyed the final chapters of the book more since it had more actionable advice.

Culture will never be perfect. However, if you don’t continously monitor and groom it, your business culture will set itself.

Culture is about actions and if you see something off but do not correct it, then you have created new culture.

Review: 7/10

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