Sponsored by The Culture Platform
What makes maps so special is they tell you exactly where to find places you want to visit.
Wouldn’t it be incredible if every organization had a culture map? Wouldn’t it be even better if that culture map worked like Google or Apple Maps? Anyone could easily search to find organizations whose cultural values are clearly marked on the map, and get directions to those companies. What a useful tool that would be.
The “Why, What, and How” of Culture
I think enough has been said about the “why” of culture and its role in organizational success. Anyone who has managed people or led a business knows a healthy culture is paramount to attract the best employees. And the best cultures consistently outperform and out-execute the competition.
We also know “what” culture is. It’s a set of stated values, beliefs, attitudes, rules, and behaviors expected where you work. For example, when I worked for Cisco CEO John Chambers, one of his stated cultural values was: “Treat people the way you would like to be treated, yourself.” Another was, “Deal with the world the way it is, not the way you wish it was.”
Now, as we enter the post-everything era, it’s time to focus on the “how” of culture. Companies have no other choice. “Post-everything” signaled a fundamental change in expectations. GenZ and Millennials are ready to leave one job for another faster than any generation in history.
If your company wants to attract and keep the best employees, you need a way to prove that you “walk the talk” of your stated values. But all too many miss the mark. The top reason organizational cultures don’t live up to their stated values is a lack of leadership commitment to those values.
Any organization that wants to be a magnet for talent must prove that it can live up to its aspirations. As we used to say at Cisco, “We’re in Missouri now — the ‘Show Me’ state.”
How a Culture Map Can Show The Way
For employers, a culture map is a way to show employees what the organization actually stands for. Mapping organizational culture is a new idea. It will require the same GPS features as digital maps on our phones:
- Pin Drops: Destinations on the map need to be accurate.
- Step-by-Step Navigation: Destinations must be accompanied by directions that explain how to get there.
- Re-Routing: The map should reveal better ways to get to the desired destination — how to “walk the talk.”
I started The Culture Platform because I wanted to surround myself with thought leaders who have “GPS” models to measure cultural values. Because my professional background is in research, my bar is high. I’m willing to work with a model only if it is either research-based or battle-tested in the market. In other words, the models must predictably measure a specific cultural value.
I think it is a mistake to “boil the ocean” by relying on a single culture indicator. Every organization is different and unique — and every organization doesn’t need to share the same values.
The ability to measure a specific aspect of culture with a data model is what makes culture-specific “pin drops” on a map possible. In my search, I found five models that meet my criteria. Each solves a specific element of the “how” for culture-building. Those dimensions can be either curiosity, self-awareness, a sense of belonging, transparency, or empowerment.
For example, consider these five culture scenarios:
- Many companies say innovation is a strategy — but does their culture promote curiosity, the necessary belief that it’s okay to challenge the status quo without fear of retribution?
- Many companies say listening to their employees is a key value — but are their leaders and managers self-aware of their behaviors?
- Many companies say a diverse workforce is their people strategy — but does their culture fundamentally embrace a sense of belonging?
- Many companies emphasize autonomy and decentralization — but do they truly empower every employee?
- Many companies want to be transparent and open— but do they set clear expectations?
These five models do more than provide the pin drop. Each has a set of step-by-step directions that represents the most effective route to the “pin.” For example, a culture of curiosity has four main “turns” to reach the pin. It should:
- Encourage exploration
- Inspire creativity
- Emphasize openness to new ideas and
- Drive engagement and focus from the top
Culture Meets GPS
The “how” of culture has always been the hardest part. It can’t be done without leaders leading the way. That’s why I was so lucky to be a direct report of John Chambers who helped him build Cisco’s culture. We had the luxury of time, though. Today, organizations need to move faster. And the way to accomplish that is with a map that includes clear “directions” to reach specific outcomes.
I remember when we Boomers printed out step-by-step directions in MapQuest (and tried to read them while driving). A culture map transports us all to the “GPS” era. Now, we can finally get to desired cultural destinations safer, faster, and with confidence.
If you want to give culture mapping a try and see how your culture stacks up, we welcome you at The Culture Platform. To get started, just email me at: TheCulturePlatform@gmail.com.