The value of an authentic culture code.

Image for post
Image for post

The advent of the culture deck in the early 2000s revealed that culture was being taken very seriously, finally getting the attention it deserved. Companies were beginning to see that culture was a key competitive and strategic advantage. Products and features can be copied, but like fingerprints or snowflakes, cultures are unique. Today companies from real estate to hospitals have culture codes .

HubSpot CEO Dharmesh Shah calls culture “a company’s operating system”. NETFLIX CEO Reed Hoffman says simply that culture is “how a firm operates”. Both agree that it’s a crucial core asset.

Culture is a companies beliefs and values, articulated and lived. It’s a statement of what a company will always do, and never do. It informs how a company functions and how a workplace feels. It never wears off or goes away. It’s there every day, and it has a huge impact on everything that matters to every business.


:what kind of company do we want to be? what kind of people do we need to get there?:

You can’t set out to be what you’re not, or pretend to be what you’d like. What you can do is learn what your culture is now. If things appear that concern you, you can work to change them. If you like what is there, you can make sure it scales and keep nourishing it

If you’re a new company, you have the freedom to be hopeful… aspirational. Anything is possible at this unique but fleeting time. If you don’t think about your purpose and how to achieve it now, you’ll miss the opportunity of having a blank slate.

The examples below from existing and new companies will give you ideas of the types of things smart companies consider when defining their culture. You’ll also see what a huge strategic asset each thought can be. Cultures can change and evolve, so descriptions of them are always a work in progress.


Even in format, no two presentations are alike, but all reveal what is required acceptable, optional, valued and rewarded.


CEO Reed Hoffman published the Netflix 100+ slide culture deck written with Patty McCord on Slideshare in 2009. It has had over 8MM views.

Traits valued at Netflix: judgment /curiosity / passion / communication innovation /honesty /impact /courage /selflessness

Let’s take one of these and see how this is actionable at Netflix:


· You say what you think even if it’s controversial

· You make tough decisions without excessive agonizing

· You take smart risks

· You question actions inconsistent with our values.

So, just on that one pillar of courage, you can see how this would help Netflix employees understand their mandate and how it would help talent scouts evaluate potential hires.


CEO Dharmesh Shaw HUB SPOT calls their culture thoughts “…part manifesto, part employee handbook and part diary of dreams. “

Solve for the customer. (SFTC)

Not just their happiness, but their success.

Obsess over customers, not competitors

For every decision, we should ask ourselves, What’s in it for the customers?”

Get stuff done (GSD) mindset.

You can see from these snippets how this input could inform every employees’ actions and impact every customer interaction. Employees know what they’re working for, and toward. They know what their company stands for. That’s inspiring. But only if the statements are true and authentic. Employees know the truth when they see it, and they can spot a lie.This isn’t soft touchy-feely stuff for posters.These are carefully thought-out major commitments to employees and customers about what their company stands for.

I’m a writer and culture zealot. I’d love to write for you about what makes your company different.

Written by

I think. I write. I worry.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store