#CultureCode: When Company Culture Goes Bad

We’ve all likely, at some point, worked at an organization where there have been politics, disgruntled colleagues, bad attitudes or backstabbing. Call it culture gone wrong. How can you revert it?

Leaders such as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, and Spotify’s Director of Engineering Kevin Goldsmith have joined our Culture Code campaign to share how they create a strong dynamic within teams and great companywide culture. Dave Gray, an entrepreneur and author of “The Connected Company,” tells us how to change culture.

“If you want to change a culture, you have to start discussing the undiscussable,” he says.

Gray has published two decks: “When Service Design Meets the Connected Company,” and more recently, “Culture Mapping: Space and Place.” In the first deck, slide 93 states: “Look for quick wins and and build momentum over time.” Another tip: “Make things tangible,” he says on slide 94. Also: “Get people to talk about their concerns” (slide 98) and “bring people together to solve the problems” (slide 101).


“The greatest factor in the success or failure of any change initiative is culture,” says Gray, who has spent the last 30 years helping companies with change and innovation.

What are steps for someone wanting to change the inner workings of their company? The first is to understand that culture is a necessity and not something that can be avoided.

“Companies have people in them. People create culture through their behavior,” Gray says. “If you can create a company with no people then you can create a company without culture. Otherwise you are stuck with culture.”

Gray’s 4 tips for jump-starting change within an organization:

1. Don’t undertake change unless the organization is really ready for it.

The way you know you’re ready? Senior executives should be behind the initiative and willing to put the time, energy and money towards it.

2. Map the culture you have.

Get started by using the Culture Map Gray created exactly for this purpose.

3. Map the culture you want

This can be done using the same map above.

4. Start changing the culture by changing rewards, incentives, office structure/layout, etc.

These will be “different for every company and they will come out of the culture mapping process,” Gray says.

How do you shape your company’s culture? Join the Culture Code campaign.

READ MORE: #CultureCode: Give Us a Peek Inside Your Workplace

Photo: artenot/Shutterstock

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