The Culture Pyramid: What Makes a Healthy Culture?

John Pendergrast
December 11, 2023

Culture. Every company has one. Culture is guaranteed. The health of your company culture is far less guaranteed.

It takes deliberate effort. It’s easy to measure revenue or headcount, but culture is much more ephemeral. Employee surveys and general observations only go so far in measuring it. In my experience most people talk about culture almost in terms of a ‘feeling’ rather than anything they can objectively measure.

It bothered me that culture was so hard to visualize and explain to the team. How do you promote something that you can’t quantify?  

“You can’t expect unless you inspect.” – paraphrase of quote from Lou V. Gerstner, Jr.  – Former CEO of IBM.

My role is to continuously improve our team here at RocketRez so that we can better serve our customers and fulfill our vision of enabling unforgettable experiences that bring people together. We can’t really own that vision if we aren’t radically focused on having a healthy culture inside our walls.

Today’s post focuses on a simple visualization I’ve devised which outlines core elements that influence and shape culture. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but each item is actionable and provides meaningful cultural improvement if focused upon. It gives us additional ways to measure our cultural health beyond just how it ‘feels’.

The 6 C's: Company, Competency, Character, Collaboration, Core Values and Calling.
The 6 C's: Company, Competency, Character, Collaboration, Core Values and Calling.

The Culture Pyramid: A Framework for Understanding and Nurturing Company Culture

  1. Company: The genesis of culture. Whether you’re a solo entrepreneur or part of a large corporation, your culture starts with the company's inception.
  2. Competency: This encompasses the skills and abilities within your team. Enhancing competencies boosts execution, momentum, and morale, thereby enriching the culture.
  3. Character: Individual responsibility plays a crucial role here. We all must cultivate self-awareness and strive to positively impact the world around us. Without good character we won’t treat our team with respect, much less our clients. Companies should actively reward good character. Character enables the next stage of the pyramid…
  4. Collaboration: Collaboration is the force multiplier that helps us win. While the concept is straightforward, effective collaboration demands deliberate effort. We must be reminded that communication requires all parties arrive with equal opportunity and good intent, maintaining a focus on aligning towards executing the vision, rather than on territorialism.
  5. Core Values: Far more than just words on a page or on your wall, they are meant to guide us and remind us of who we are. They MUST be distinctly us. ChatGPT can’t provide you with your Core Values. These are the fundamental beliefs and guiding principles that shape our culture, decision-making, and actions. Core Values must be communicated continuously as constant reminders of who we are and aspire to be.
  6. Calling: Up to this point the type of company you are, or what you produce, is largely irrelevant. You could manufacture tires or have a service-oriented business, it doesn’t matter until we get to Calling. Calling, a merging of mission and vision, represents the apex of an organization’s Culture Pyramid, guiding its purpose and future ambitions. It’s your daily driving force and should be communicated tirelessly by leaders. About the time you feel you have communicated enough, that’s when your team is beginning to truly grasp it. Keep going! Your Calling is why you exist in the first place.

Culture is guaranteed; healthy culture isn’t.  

I hope this visualization assists others as much as it has helped us at RocketRez. The benefits of a healthy culture cannot be overstated - it is the fundamental difference between winning and losing, thriving and merely surviving. A healthy culture fosters innovation, drives employee engagement, and enhances customer satisfaction, ultimately leading to sustained business success.  

If you are a business leader, I urge you to start focusing on cultivating each aspect of this Culture Pyramid. Lead by example in fostering a healthy culture and educate your team on the importance of these elements and how they can be effectively developed and measured. If you aren’t yet a leader, start being one in your area of influence. You can play a vital role in shaping a brighter, more successful future for everyone involved.

As Larry Senn, an Organizational Culture Expert, noted, “Culture is not an initiative.  Culture is the enablers of all initiatives.”

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John Pendergrast
Founder / CEO