Dave Gray » Culture mapping

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Since I founded XPLANE in 1993, I have worked on many change and innovation initiatives, and one of the most difficult — yet most important — aspects of any business transformation is culture change. Culture can be a company’s best friend, but when volatility in the business environment requires change, culture can be the biggest obstacle.

In most large-scale organizational change projects, culture is the “elephant in the room.” It is not only undiscussed, it is undiscussable, at least in any serious, meaningful way. And yet it is the biggest threat to any major change.

In 2006, my company was going through this kind of transformation. Our culture had been very process-driven and it needed to become more innovative, more entrepreneurial and more team-oriented. To help with that transition we created a visual map of the culture we wanted. We put copies of the map in every meeting room and on every desk, and we frequently used the map as a guide when making decisions. We used the map to evaluate new hires, and we used it as a teaching tool when on-boarding new employees.

XPLANE Culture Map

The culture mapping tool was so useful that I have long thought it would make an excellent tool for any company that’s dealing with a difficult transformation that will require rethinking, re-imagining or simply shifting the company culture.

In 2010 I sold XPLANE, and now that I’m on to new things, I have the time and energy to focus on this.

I’ve been working with Alex Osterwalder, Alan Smith, and Chris Finlay to design a tool that organizations can use to assess, map and transform their cultures. The Culture Map tool is still in the prototype stage and I am currently testing it with organizations large and small.