3 Steps to Map (and Improve) Corporate Culture

Last week I was in Singapore to give a workshop and speak at the B2B Marketing Forum. I enjoy talking to marketers from all parts of the world and in all industries, because each person has a perspective that teaches me something new.

One thing that bubbles up in conversations is the culture of the companies in which people work. Some are thrilled to take new ideas back to the office and try them out. Others are hesitant to rock the boat. Last week I took time with a group to talk about company cultures and what holds them back from doing work that pushes the boundaries in their industries.

Let me start with what, exactly, culture is. It’s the values, beliefs and behaviors that make a group of people unique. It’s both the open and unspoken rules of what’s acceptable behavior. Showing up at work at 9:00 a.m.? Some cultures wouldn’t blink an eye while others would have their boss impatiently waiting in the doorway. Prefer to eat lunch at your desk? That wouldn’t fly if everyone around you bonds over lunch at the local taco hut.

Here’s a tool that I shared with the group in Singapore that I think you’ll find valuable as well – The Culture Map. I learned about it from the team at Strategyzer, but it was developed by author Dave Gray.

Download a PDF of The Culture Map here.

I’ll be the first to admit that “culture” is one of those fuzzy words that makes people uncomfortable. Especially if you work for an engineer-driven company. But whether the word makes you squeamish or not, it’s still something that affects you. Every company has a culture. The question is if it’s consciously created or not.

Is your company rife with territorial silos? Do you feel that people resist change? Are you struggling to be more creative, have people care about the work you do and collaborate more? Then you’re being affected by culture.

Most of the work around culture is murky at best. There’s lots of meetings, exercises and lists of things to do, but it rarely feels like anything gets done or changes. It makes sense that people don’t value putting time into it. That’s why I love this tool.

The point of The Culture Map is to help you assess, map and transform your organization’s culture by spending time reflecting on it. For a lot of people it’s not just about managing teams below you, it’s also up and across the company. This exercise will equip you with the information you need to plead your case for the support, budget and, sometimes, interference to help change happen.

Here’s how you use it…  

Start with behaviors.

In this middle box, write down the specifics about how people do things in your company, and how that makes you feel. Are people down-trodden? Inspired to walk through the door every day? Make sure you include examples and stories because this will help clarify things in your mind.  

Then focus on outcomes.

What’s the good, bad and ugly of people behaving this way? How does culture affect the performance of your team? What about how efficient things are getting done? Be as specific as possible here and include numbers or percentages in how culture impacts the performance of individuals, teams and the company as a whole.

Finish with enablers & blockers

This is when you get down to the nitty gritty of why you do or don’t get things done. But this is the meat of how you begin to see where change needs to happen and why. These are the root causes of changing the behaviors that will change outcomes. It’s the fuel you’ll use to plead your case to the right people and get them to pay attention.

Current vs. desired state

The Culture Map has one more powerful advantage. Once you’ve used it to benchmark where your culture is today, do it again keeping in mind the ideal culture you’d like to create. Start with the outcomes you’d like to deliver. Then back into the behaviors that would need to be in place to make it happen. Finally, take time to think through the enablers and blockers that would be in place. What would be different? This shows you where you need to start and what you need to prioritize to change your culture.

You can go through this exercise by yourself, or use it to facilitate a bigger group discussion. Download the map (above) and print it out big enough to hang on a wall and have everyone talk through it together.

At the end of the exercise, you’ll be able to show the C-suite a look into true company culture in a way that they could never see otherwise. Because as soon as they walk into a room, people either shut down or make sure to imply that everything’s coming up roses. The Culture Map shows them concrete reasons why that’s not actually the case.  

Download The Culture Map and give it a try. Let me know how it worked for you in the comments below.

Photo credit: Pixabay

About Carla Johnson


Carla Johnson is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author.

Over the last two decades, Carla has helped architects and actuaries, executives and volunteers, innovators and visionaries leverage the art of storytelling to inspire action. Her work with Fortune 500 brands has served as the foundation for many of her books.

In her latest project, Fast Forward Files, she contributes to a larger collection of thoughts by some of the world’s greatest minds -  Shazam co-founder Dhiraj Mukherjee, activist and entrepreneur Heather Mills and behavioral designer, technologist and mental-health champion Peter Trainor. Consistently named one of the top influencers in B2B, digital and content marketing, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking. 

Today, she travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.