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Best Practices: How To Use The Culture Map

Kavi Guppta

Since Dave Gray and Strategyzer launched the Culture Map, thousands of people around the world have downloaded the tool to help them design their corporate culture. In this post, we collected 7 best practices from Dave Gray and Alex Osterwalder for using the Culture Map in collaborative sessions.

Dave Gray of Xplane Tweet this quote.

Get leadership or teams into a room to map out and discuss your company’s existing or desired culture. Collaboration will be key, so try out the following approach:

  1. 10+ minutes: Individually map your as-is culture. Think hard about enablers and blockers.

  2. 60+ minutes: Gather your team, map and discuss your as-is culture.

  3. 180+ minutes: Design a workshop to move from an existing culture to a desired culture.

1. Imagine your corporate culture as a garden.

Dave Gray explains how the analogy of a garden helps leadership and teams to visualize their culture within the Culture Map.

  • The outcomes in your culture are the fruits. These are the things you want your culture to achieve, or what you want to “harvest” from your garden.

  • The behaviors are the heart of your culture. They’re the positive or negative actions people perform everyday that will result in a good or bad harvest.

  • The enablers and blockers are the elements that allow your garden to flourish or fail. For example, weeds, pests, bad weather, or lack of knowledge might be hindering your garden. Where as fertilizer, expertise in gardening specific crops, or good land might be helping your garden to grow.  

2. Work in slices.

Focus on discussing one area of your culture at a time. Whether you started by mapping out an outcome or a behavior, it’s important to conduct the conversation around that space before trying to tackle other areas of your culture.

3. Tell stories and be specific.

There can be a tendency to describe behaviors in an abstract way. In your Culture Map exercise you might hear people say “There’s a lack of teamwork” or “People are lazy”. What does that mean? What’s actually happening? Managers and teams have probably talked to each other so much about these issues, that it’s become an easy way to explain negative results.

Get participants to tell a story with specific examples. Have them describe a scene in the movie where they can provide detail around the lack of teamwork. This might result in a more specific example like “People agree to something in a meeting, but leave and do their own things”.  It’s also important that participants get into the habit of sharing evidence rather than simply stating opinions, so specific stories of behavior (good and bad) can be based on proof rather than a rumour. 

4. Start by mapping out behaviors.

It’s up to you to decide if your session should start top down by tackling outcomes and then the associated behaviors, enablers and blockers. But Dave Gray has found that starting with behaviors can be an easy place to start. Behaviors are the things you see everyday; the things people go to the bar or out to lunch to talk about.

Focus the conversation by asking these questions: What does a great day at work look like? What does a bad day at work look like? Participants might respond that a great day meant getting a lot accomplished. Why? Because there were no meetings.

Yves Pigneur Tweet this quote.

5. Discuss how leadership, culture & processes, and organizational design impact your culture.

Ask the team: what causes and influences our behaviors? What are you as a leader saying or doing to enable these behaviors? How are people rewarded for their behaviors in your culture (both positive and negative)? What are the unwritten rules? How does your current process help or hinder your culture? This is the space to assess your current culture, and the space where you can design the culture that you want.

6. Place the Culture Map in a visible space after the session.

Now that you’ve got an aspirational map of the culture you want after a workshop or offsite, take that map and place it in a space where everyone can see it and be reminded of the tasks ahead. Put them up in meeting rooms so decisions can be made inline with the information on your Culture Map. At XPLANE, Dave Gray explains how a version of the company’s Culture Map hangs in the lobby to keep the map fresh in people’s minds.

7. Make sure it’s a living document.

Alex Osterwalder Tweet this quote.

Look at the map you’ve created and frequently assess if your culture has moved from the current state to its desired state. Has the culture you mapped out enacted enablers that resulted in the behaviors and outcomes you desired? How have hurtful blockers been removed from your culture? Your teams can regroup once every quarter or at frequent intervals throughout the year to assess, learn, and evolve the company’s Culture Map. Integrate the document into existing company processes to ensure all leaders and teams follow the desired culture that was created. 

The process of regularly separating outcomes, behaviors, enablers and blockers will allow your team to organize and assess the elements that should remain or be removed. Participants will also recognize that everything is within the power of the company to change.

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