Coach's Casebook

Book Review: The Secret Sauce-Creating a Winning Culture by Ford and Osterhaus

Book Review: The Secret Sauce-Creating a Winning Culture by Ford and Osterhaus

Book Review: The Secret Sauce-Creating a Winning Culture by Ford and Osterhaus

SecretSauceThe Secret Sauce: Creating a Winning Culture by Kevin Ford and James Osterhaus is an exploration of the importance of culture. The reader is guided through this exploration by way of a business fable detailing the story of a famous chef, Gage Fabre.  From humble beginnings, Fabre has used the power of his passion and single-mindedness to build a chain of restaurants. Although quite successful, the business has a major challenge in Fabre himself. His behaviour is considered to be toxic by the people in the business and corrupting the culture for the organisation.

Over nine chapters we follow Fabre’s journey of self discovery as he is coached in  golf, business change and emotional intelligence by the course pro at a famous mountain resort.


Fabre’s secret sauce is a mainstay of the business and is also a metaphor for his business’ culture, the fusion of different factors that lead to a way of behaving that is recognisable to all as the cause of success.
In successive meetings with Chip, an accomplished and seemly business wise golf pro, Fabre learns how to change his own behaviour and so improve his business’ culture (and even improve on his secret sauce).
Fabre is asked to consider 3 important questions:


  1. How do you want your customers to feel?
  2. How do you want your team to feel?
  3. Who do you need to be to achieve that?
A heathy culture, according to the authors Ford and Oesterhaus reflects 5 characteristics:


  • focus
  • motivation
  • connection
  • cohesion
  • spirit
These cultural characteristics lead to employees that feel empowered, collegial and engaged, which frequently attracts talented people who are drawn to a high performing team.
With further detailed comments about how to develop and improve organisational culture, the authors look at how you can promote interdependence, an improved atmosphere and a feeling of commitment and citizenship in the organisation. This includes highlighting the need for a dependable leader who focuses on getting the fundamentals of leadership correct.


Ford and Osterhaus also describe a series of factors that will help improve the likelihood that internal change will endure:

  • Start with simple changes
  • Find ways to challenge the prevailing power structure
  • Make sure your rules have teeth
  • Experiment and take smart risks
  • Fix the system not the person
  • Do not rely on controls
  • Do not build systems to change behaviour
  • Find your own solutions
  • Prepare for the struggle
The authors argue ( and I agree) that it is the shared journey, ‘the quest’, which is fundamental to developing a shared culture.  So if you create a shared vision of the future and the path to get there, you will have a vision around which your people can rally and thrive.


If you have an interest in Leadership, Cultural Development and Golf then you will find The Secret Sauce an entertaining and helpful exploration of how the 3 can be linked. Culture may very well be the Secret Sauce in business so shouldn’t you know what your recipe is?


Dare to Aspire
Skip to toolbar