The story of the first Culture Map

Dave Gray
Dave Gray
Aug 29, 2015 · 2 min read

Many people have asked me why I am working on something I’ve been calling the Culture Map, a tool for diagnosing, discussing and designing culture change in organizations.

To answer that question I need to tell the story of the XPLANE Culture Map, created in 2007. Here it is.

XPLANE has grown quite rapidly over the years, and as the founder of the company, one of the things I felt was very, very important was to keep the culture and the magic that keeps the place alive, and not feeling like a cubicle factory. We worked for a while on this to define and clarify both the culture that we have as well as the culture we want, including our deepest dreams and aspirations.

We created this visual map to not only highlight the characteristics that we want, but visualizing them, demonstrating in action what they mean, and showing how they relate to each other. Creating and using the map confirmed my faith that by creating a vision and making it explicit, you can make it come true.

One of the reasons I like the map so much is not that it’s a pretty picture but because it is a representation of truth, and it’s one of those things that is becoming more true every day.

If you have a picture of an ideal place that you want to be, you’re not necessarily going to be there day one — and we aren’t — but we are constantly moving towards it, and having that as a compass really keeps us focused. It helps us hire the right people, it helps us support the right things, and rather than people living in a world where they really don’t know what’s expected, they have something they can point to.

The intern with only two days on the job can start a conversation that questions the CEO who has been around since the beginning of the company, and that’s possible because we have a clear picture that we can point to and have a conversation about.

That’s powerful.

Learn more about XPLANE and Culture Mapping.

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Dave Gray is the founder of XPLANE, a design consultancy that helps organizations navigate and clarify complexity to create meaningful impact.

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