Monthly Culture Inspiration December 2017

Every month, I post three types of culture inspiration: a visual, a book, and an article to bookmark.


Visual: Invisible Iceberg of Corporate Culture

Torben Rick is a leadership consultant in Germany. His website has several charming data visualizations about culture, including this one about the iceberg that sinks organizational change.

Book: The Startup Way by Eric Ries

I just finished reading Eric Ries' new book, The Startup Way. In his previous book, The Lean Startup, Ries created a framework for what makes successful startups (building a minimal viable product + customer-focused and scientific testing based on a build-measure-learn method of continuous innovation). In this book, he focused on how established organizations like GE, Toyota, Amazon, and Airbnb use entrepreneurial principles and management techniques. He shares how other companies, as well as nonprofits, NGOs, and governments can use them to achieve long-term impact.


Above is a pyramid that makes up the core of the Startup Way. Talking about culture, Ries writes, "Over time, these habits and ways of working congeal into CULTURE: the shared, often unstated, beliefs that determine what employees believe to be possible, because 'that's just the way things are around here.' Culture is the institutional muscle memory, based not on how the organization aspires to operate but on how it really has in the past. You cannot change culture by simply putting up posters that exhort employees to 'Be more innovative!' or 'Think outside the box!' Not even Facebook's famous 'Move fast and break things!' spray-painted on your walls will have any effect. Culture is formed over time, the residue leftover from the process and accountability choices of the company's past."

The Impact of The Startup Way

The Impact of The Startup Way

As an example of how important culture is, Ries writes, "The hypergrowth tech startup Asana is built on notions of mindfulness and intentionality. 'Most companies end up with a culture as an emergent phenonemon,' says co-founder Justin Rosenstein. 'We decided to treat culture as a product.' Co-founder Duston Moskovitz adds, 'From the beginning we were intentional about wanting to be intentional. A lot of companies have the conversation several years into existence. We'd already had it in the first couple of weeks. Then we went about trying to manifest it and keep it exclusive.' Asana works to regularly reassess and redesign its core values, and when the company makes a change, it launches the new value throughout the organization in the same way it would launch any other kind of product. Then it goes through the process of feedback and iteration on the road to resolution. Asana calls these problems 'cultural bugs' and words to eradicate them the same way it would a problematic piece of software." 


One last thing from The Startup Way: Ries gives a diagram (above) of how to insert the entrepreneurial function into your org chart. He writes, "'Wait a minute,' you might say. 'If this requires changing the org chart, and other functions, the culture of the company, who we hire and promote-- that sounds very difficult.' That's right, it is. I don't want to sugarcoat this. It requires building a new kind of organization in response to a new blueprint, and doing so is especially hard because everyone involved has muscle memory and habits formed in the old order. But I believe the benefits are worth the pain."

Go get a copy from Amazon or your local library and take a read. Highly recommend it!

Article to Bookmark: First Round on Company Culture

First Round Review features interviews with startups about how they've successfully built their organization and business. I love their articles, and was so happy to see that they have recently launched a new search function of the site called First Search, which has a page that features all their interviews about culture. You can search for stories on People Operations, Organization Structure, Diversity and Inclusion, Talent Management, and so much more.