How to Create the Company Culture You Want

Perhaps when you were a start up, a healthy company culture developed effortlessly. But when your company grew the culture changed.

But then the company started to take off and you realized you needed more bodies than you had friends. You needed different roles, talents and personalities and now you are wondering, what happened to the culture?

Or maybe your small firm just merged with another. You knew who you each were, but now you are both trying to figure out who you collectively are. Suddenly, unspoken rules and behaviors are in question – what is the right way to behave?

Or perhaps you’re a new leader at an established organization trying to make big changes. It seems impossible and everyone agrees on only one thing: the problem is the culture.

Can organizational culture be changed? Can it be influenced? Can it be… fixed?

We think it can. Organizational culture is commonly defined as the human behaviors within an organization and the underlying values that keep those behaviors in place. The first step in influencing your organization’s culture is to visualize the behaviors and values you want at the center of the organization. We refer to this artifact as a culture map. A culture map will:

  • Clarify – Creating a picture forces you to show examples of what good looks like. It shows employees where they fit and what they can expect from others.
  • Provide direction – People are faced with decisions that impact the culture everyday. Your map acts like a giant signpost guiding people towards the behaviors that drive the culture.
  • Create an employee filter – Your map should serve as a filter for finding and keeping people that are the right fit and will thrive in your culture. Suddenly when you say, “I don’t think this person is a good culture fit,” it means something.
  • Provide a common language – Coaching and mentoring conversations can be focused around the behaviors and values on your map and on a common understanding of what the terms mean.
  • Inspire – Your map should give people a sense of belonging, community and common purpose. Even if it starts out as aspirational, the map will let people know that the organization is moving in a positive direction.

A map by itself won’t change your culture. Organizational culture is intricate and often deep-rooted, requiring a systems approach to impact. For lasting results, you’ll need these essential ingredients:

  • Invite employees to help build – The culture map sets the direction but it’s up to the employees to help make it real and authentic at the individual level. Include them in developing the map and invest the time to make sure they understand it.
  • Model it at the top –  Once the organization sees leadership not only supporting but also modeling the behaviors that support the organizational culture, they know it’s real.
  • Make it prominent –  XPLANE hangs our map in our front entrance way. Put it on the homepage of your intranet or on the largest wall in your break room but be sure to give it top tier real estate. It will not influence in your handbook alone.
  • Refer to it often –  Your cultural values should be weaved into the operational fabric of your organization. They should influence recruiting and hiring, performance management, internal communications, and how employees act day-to-day.

Culture change doesn’t happen overnight. XPLANE founders created our first culture map ten years ago. Parts of it were aspirational and it took a few years before it was fully part of our DNA.

First Culture Map

Above: The first XPLANE Culture Map

Over the past few years, we’ve revisited the map as a company and evolved it together based on who we’ve become and where we’re headed. Our culture map continuously remains a cornerstone to how we get work done, run our business, and treat each other.

Culture Map
Above: 2014 XPLANE Culture Map

XPLANE Culture Poster2017

Above: 2017 XPLANE culture map.

Does your organization visualize its culture?

We’d love to see and hear about other examples where this is being done well. If not, we can help you diagnose the culture you have, co-create the culture you want, and visualize it.

Related Posts:

Process Problems Aren’t Just About Process

Culture Fit (And How To Misuse The Term)

November 23, 2016
Kathryn Jarrell