I recently read an article about a startup, and in it they talked about their culture. The main bring ups were bonuses, lunches, and something about beer being on tap. Meanwhile, there was also talk about bitter employee arguments, people throwing each other under the bus, and a generally hostile sounding work environment. It seems that no one realized that the latter is their actual culture.
When team members talk about culture, the conversation should be comprised of the handful of differentiating principles the team embodies that they are not willing to compromise on as they grow (since they will probably have to compromise on a lot of other principles as they grow). Culture for a team may be it’s belief in autonomy, velocity, cohesion, or approach to design. But it’s probably not lunch and beer on tap. Or rather, if it is lunch and beer on tap, then the team will be trading away the things that actually make for a functioning team.