Building Culture: Resources and Examples

Hi there! Mollie here. I frequently get requests from founders, organizational designers, and VCs in search of culture resources for either start-ups or larger organizations.

Why Culture?

The number one issue that keeps CEOs up at night is not the stock market, profit, customers, or product development. It’s organizational culture. They struggle with how to foster a culture that keeps employees happy, creative, and engaged. Why is culture creation so hard? It is intangible and there are a lack of interventions and tools for changing it. When entrepreneurs are starting companies, they often are so focused on creating a product, they don’t have the time to think about the intangible, unconscious culture creation that happens every day.

Organizational cultures often are created by default. They do not always evolve intentionally and explicitly. How can organizations develop a culture that supports the members of the organization? 

You can't actually design culture, but you can design the internal levers to help create or change a culture. In other words, you can design the conditions that influence the culture. There are six levers that can be fine-tuned to make organizations more effective. 


Click on each link below to find resources and examples:
1) Values: Core assumptions and priorities
2) Talent: What organizations look for in new members; how they hire, onboard, incentivize and train employees
3) Power structure: How people obtain, maintain, and lose power; how they give and receive feedback
4) Rituals: Ceremonies, social environment and behaviors, dress codes
5) Ways of Working: The "way we do things around here": norms, the ways organizations respond to problems
6) Physical environment: office space, physical artifacts, work hours

Have additional resources to share? Contact me via the form at the bottom of the page, and I'll post them.



Books on Culture

How Google Works, by Eric Schmidt: A Google guidebook on corporate culture, strategy, talent, decision-making, and communication.

First Break All the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham: What the world's greatest managers do differently

Work Rules, by Laszlo Bock: Head of HR at Google gives insights from the company's people operations team

Make Space, by Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoff: How to build an office with a collaborative environment

Delivering Happiness, by Tony Hsieh: How Zappos created a different kind of corporate culture

Reinventing Organizations, by Frederic Laloux: A joyful guide to new organizational methods

#Workout, by Jurgen Appelo: A colorful book that offers concrete games, tools, and practices

Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation by Lindsey McGregor and Neil Doshi

The Heart of Change, by John Kotter and Dan Cohen: How to change a big organization

Scaling Up Excellence, by Bob Sutton and Huggy Rao: How to scale up a culture

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, by Patrick Lencioni

Blitzscaling by Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh


Case Studies

A List of Harvard Business School case studies that relate to culture

Why Should Anyone Work Here? What It Takes To Create an Authentic Organization, an HBR Press Book


Newsletters to follow

First Round Review's People & Culture Magazine: a publication from First Round Venture Fund


General articles:

How to Build A Successful Culture: A piece on Medium I co-wrote based on a culture meet-up I organized

The Most Valuable Exercise I've Done as CEO: About writing a culture code

Don't Fuck Up the Culture: Airbnb's CEO on building culture

Cultural Change That Sticks: an article on Harvard Business Review based on change at Aetna

Sam Altman's Startup Playbook: A great guide from the founder of Y-Combinator. Specifically read sections on "A Great Team" and "Great Execution: Hiring and Managing."

re:Work: Practices, research and ideas from Google and other organizations to put people first. Sections on hiring, managers, people analytics, and unbiasing.

Working Better: The Atlantic paired up with Xerox to create a series of articles about work and culture. Sections on alignment, agility, and productivity.

How Company Culture Shapes Employee Motivation: A Harvard Business Review piece about how to transform culture from a mystery to a science.

Spotify Engineering Culture: Excellent videos on Spotify's unique and responsive culture (Links: Part 1 and Part 2). Spotify's engineering and product organization is split into several groups called tribes. Learn about tribes, squads, guilds, and chapters. Here is an in-depth white paper by Spotify on its culture.

The 26 Most Popular Culture Articles of 2016 from Culture Amp's Newsletter

Culture is the Behavior You Reward and Punish by Jocelyn Goldfein

Greenhouse's Webinar on the ROI of Culture

Don't Let Your Company's Culture Just Happen: HBR on Using XPLANE's Culture Map

How to Scale Up Without Losing Your Culture by XPLANE

Something Weird Happens to Companies When They Reach 150: on the magic Dunbar number



#Workout: Games, Tools and Practices to engage people, with hands-on exercises, games, tools and best practices

Culture Mapping: XPlane's founder, Dave Gray, provides a tool for when an organization’s culture need to adapt to a rapidly changing world

Shiftbase: From PostShift, an organizational design firm in London. A research base with guides for the future of organizations.



Attend one of our CULTURE LABx meetups. More info here!