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Culture mapping

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 OsterwalderAlan 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.

Here’s a brief video introduction to the tool:

Here’s the talk where I introduced the concept at LIFT 13 in Geneva:

Here’s a talk I gave on culture and change at the Dare Conference in London (external link):

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Here’s a talk I gave on culture and change:

Here are the slides from another, more recent talk I gave for a corporate client:

Here is what v.005 of the Culture Map looks like (Beta):

Culture Map v005

Please remember that this is an early-stage prototype and I expect that we will learn a lot as we test it. The map may go through a lot of iteration before it’s “ready for prime time.”

That said, I’ve put a lot of thought and effort into this, and I’m excited to get your feedback. I’ve been testing with individuals and teams and so far the feedback has been tremendously positive. It’s a tool that invites deep reflection.

Some of the feedback to date:

“Very clear picture of the actual corporate culture – with huge coincidences across all units and high evidence.”

“High impact on the senior management (real eye opener).”

“Strong basis for following interventions.”


Download the map (Version 005).

Please join the Culture Mapping LinkedIn group and share your ideas and feedback!

Subscribe to get updates on the Culture Mapping project.

Contact me if you want to talk about working together on a culture transformation initiative.