Culture Cocktail – how do we segment culture to avoid a hot mess?


We are a ‘people organisation’. I am a ‘people person’. ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’. I totally agree and this is all really nice but what do we really mean? I believe success in the culture space is more about role-modeling and learning but that still feels intangible… Once an extremely experienced and knowledgeable consultant (& £+) in one of my previous startups said ‘Matyas, all you need to achieve is that you and other senior leaders all role-model your company values and you keep each other accountable…’ While I 100% agree and it was an excellent advice, it actually sounds a lot easier than what it is!

Therefore, we also need a structure and segmentation to culture so we can better understand, better measure and form it together. I firmly believe if we understand the key elements of of this so-called thing culture, we can build healthy organisations and we can have effective and fruitful conversations about culture – a topic that everybody talks about but from a very different, personal angle. 

The first picture shows how we can make employees (leadership + existing members + new joiners) 1.Belong (connect), 2.Align (towards the same star), 3. Integrate (with wider stakeholders) and 4. Individual Growth (empower individual stories). These factors (1-4) are all (often) equally important and relevant for many startups. The images look pretty, clean and easy to understand and measure next to each other right?!

However, look at the bottom picture. It is exactly the same as the 4 images above but on top of each other instead of being segmented. It becomes a hot mess. We are unable to capture the essence and measure success or speak the same language about culture. It all feels overwhelming…

I believe this is what many startups get wrong about culture. My personal advice is to segment and divide the key aspects of what makes your culture yours and talk about them separately. Find initiatives in each area and measure them separately. I believe the overall result will be better and you will have more fun talking about culture. It will not feel overwhelming. And of course, hold each other accountable for role-modeling your values on a daily level.