Engineering Culture: Catchphrases and Quotes

23 November 2020

Catchphrases can create vivid and memorable scenarios that act as heuristics for behavior and decisions. In The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle writes about Danny Meyers as someone who builds a successful culture using a tool I would not have expected, He has the intentional use of catchphrases and quotes to help grow culture and communication. Instead of coming up with long-winded examples for behavior, he comes up with catchy and memorable phrases that can be embedded in communication.

To give a few examples from the book, they all easy to remember, easy to visualize, and guide handling situations:

  • Collecting the dots and connecting the dots
  • Skunking (spraying negative energy into the workspace)
  • Make the charitable assumption
  • You can’t prevent mistakes, but you can solve problems graciously
  • The road to success is paved with mistakes well handled
  • Mistakes are like waves, servers are surfers

The value of these is if one person finds them useful, they can be easily picked up and repeated by a 2nd or 3rd degree. As someone who already has a few catchphrases, this stands out to me as an easy way for me (or you!) to intentionally promote a culture. To get started, start writing down the catchphrases or quotes you currently use, put them in one place, start using them more frequently and iterate on the collection.

This is my current collection, you can probably tell where a lot of my focus lives from these alone, but I am excited to see where some increased usage and iteration takes me:


  1. Crawl, Walk, Run
  2. Make the change easy, then make the easy change - Kent Beck
  3. A bad system will beat a good person every time. - W. Edwards Deming
  4. What’s measured improves - Peter Drucker
  5. Strategy is a commodity, execution is an art. - Peter Drucker
  6. Every system is perfectly designed to get the result that it does. - W. Edwards Deming
  7. Fall in love with the problem, not the solution. -


  1. Plans are nothing, planning is everything - D. Eisenhower
  2. A goal without a plan is just a wish. - Larry Elder
  3. There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. - Peter Drucker
  4. Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else. - Peter Drucker
  5. Lack of time is actually lack of priorities. - Timothy Ferris
  6. When you know what’s most important to you, making a decision is quite simple. - Anthony Robbins
  7. A decision without an alternative is a desperate gambler’s throw - Peter Drucker


  1. Every system is perfectly designed to get the result that it does. - W. Edwards Deming
  2. Make new mistakes every day. Don’t waste time repeating the old ones. - Danny Meyer
  3. Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough. - Elon Musk
  4. Don’t make the same decision twice. Spend time and thought to make a solid decision the first time so 1. that you don’t revisit the issue unnecessarily. - Bill Gates
  5. The big optimizations come from refining the high-level design, not the individual routines. - Steve 1. McConnell

Are there any catchphrases or quotes you are using?