The Startup Culture Canvas (Beta)

A template for your culture as an organizational operating system

Tara Horn
Tara Horn
May 29, 2018 · 5 min read

A purposeful and aligned culture is integral to growing a resilient company. If you read my previous article, you know that culture is everything, but how can you apply the concept of culture in practical terms to create a stronger organization?

To help answer that, I present The Startup Culture Canvas. The canvas is a practical tool based on the culture model for designing and cultivating a purpose-driven organization from the ground up.

The Startup Culture Canvas (PDF)

The Startup Culture Canvas (Doc)

It’s designed to help teams articulate a shared vision for the kind of company and culture they want to cultivate, and identify specific actions and strategies to achieve it. The Startup Culture Canvas is a template for using your culture as a more effective organizational operating system.

If you read the previous article, Culture, What is it Really? then you recognize this model for understanding organizational culture:

To recap, the tree represents an organization as a cultural system. The most visible parts of the culture — stories, explicit values, artifacts, and individual behaviors, happen at the top. They are outcomes that emerge from the deeper parts of the culture — the implicit values, power structures, and organizational systems. A healthy culture, like a healthy tree, has as all of the parts working in alignment and balance, and has to be cultivated with intention if it’s going to thrive and achieve its purpose. Just creating a purpose and core values for a company, or focusing on individual behavioral change, won’t do anything to shape the culture if the authority, leadership, and systems don’t reflect the values and facilitate the desired cultural outcomes. The Startup Culture Canvas can help connect those key pieces of purpose, values, and operations.

Definitions

Purpose

Values

Aspirations

Goals & Strategies

Business Proposition

Tips on Using The Startup Culture Canvas

Make it collective

Give it time

Culture is emergent, and so is this process. You don’t need to have all the answers up front. As you work through it, you’ll gain insight on the next steps. Similarly, don’t feel pressured to fill up every strategy column or have everything perfectly sorted. The goal is clarity around where you want to be, and how to start getting there. Some strategies might be very specific, others might be very broad. You might uncover things you want to do a deep dive on in a separate process — such as mapping out your structure if you are a new startup, or creating a leadership development framework if you are more established.

Mix it up

Iterate

What do you think of the culture canvas?


Hi! I’m the Founder and Chief Culture Scientist at The Praxis Department. We help companies connect with their people and take action to build resilience and purpose-driven cultures that scale.

Tara Horn

Written by

Tara Horn

Founder of The Praxis Department. Anthropologist, explorer, maybe anarchist.