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Daily Nuggets: A For Impact Blog

Culture is HOW you work.


I just finished reading What You Do is Who You Are, by Ben Horowitz. I was a HUGE fan of Ben’s first book, The Hard Thing About the Hard Things. And, I’m just as eager to recommend his second book!

With his first book, really shaped some of my thinking about culture. He defines culture building as HOW YOU WORK. He distinguishes this from values and perks. A good cultural design lets values persist, but values are not in-and-of-themselves the behaviors you’re programming into your work, team or company.*

Ben builds on culture in this second book, going deeper:

Culture isn’t a magical set of rules that makes everyone behave the way you’d like. It’s a system of behaviors that you hope most people will follow, most of the time. Critics love to attack companies for having a “broken culture” or being “morally corrupt,” but it’s actually a minor miracle if a culture isn’t dysfunctional. No large organization ever gets anywhere near 100 percent compliance on every value, but some do much better than others. Our aim here is to be better, not perfect.

Horowitz, Ben. What You Do Is Who You Are (p. 17). Harper Business.

When I think about the most successful sales (fundraising) cultures we’ve seen, they all emerged from well-defined and then focused behaviors — sales team meetings, defined sales process, goals/metrics. This focus is a really simple insight for something as complex as ‘culture’!!!!

The behaviors are easier to identify, integrating the behaviors + people is always the trickier part which is why the last sentence is so important: Our aim here is to be better, not perfect.

*In the Hard Thing about Hard Things Ben says, “Yoga is a perk, not a culture.” <– For those who know us it’s worth sharing… years ago we started a fringe benefit program at For Impact | The Suddes Group to fund gym memberships, YOGA!, and other things that would help our team achieve optimal health. We named the program ‘Culture of Health‘. We still have the program and name ‘Culture of Health‘, but when we really geek out on ‘culture’, I will be the first to admit: the program is a perk which reinforces a value: it does not much inform a system of behaviors for how we work.)