Chapter 14. Define Your Culture Before It Defines Itself

Mike Pappas

In school, I studied physics and applied mathematics. I spent a long time thinking about formulae and systems, analyzing data, and generally trying to quantify anything in sight.

I tend to bring that attitude into how I think about leading a company. Metrics are important, both to discover strengths and weaknesses and to communicate the state of things.

Culture naturally resists quantitative metrics. (Not to say metrics don’t exist—there are a few—but none without fairly obvious gaps.) Because of this, I dismissed the importance of culture when I was still in school and merely speculating about what working at a company would be like.

Fast forward to today, and I haven’t really learned much to help me quantify the importance of culture. But nonetheless, I’ve been convinced.

Culture is really, really important.

What do I mean when I say culture? It’s a bit fuzzy, but here’s how I think about it:

A company’s product is the what. Their customers are the why. Their employees are the who. Culture is the how.

This is a pretty large claim. There’s a lot in the “how” that might not traditionally be considered culture. But ultimately, culture is about people, and that’s what all questions of “how” boil down to: how do the people in the company operate?

The fact that culture is inherently fuzzy makes it crucial ...

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