“Culture” is notoriously hard to pin down: sometimes you only know it when you see it over time. There’s also a difference between what it is and what it can be.
Keeping the above in mind, try applying the OODA loop:
Identify examples of good ‘culture’ (and ‘bad’): these could be stories of how someone inside the company reacted in a situation, aspirational examples from outside, etc. Showing makes it easier than telling. (Use a story framework, if needed)
What keywords do people use to describe your company culture? Ask employees, customers, partners, friends and people who just know you from your website. (e.g. they may use words like ‘fast’ or ‘slow’,
Stressful situations and difficult decisions peel aside layers to reveal true culture. How has your company dealt with these? What did this reveal?
Orient & Decide
Based on what you learned, where do you want to go?
Can you choose distinct, memorable, concrete ‘values’ & norms that specify what your preferred culture is?
And equally, do you know what you don’t want to be? (you have to choose; you can’t have everything)
Strengthen channels & mediums by which you can disseminate these values, stories that illustrate them, ways to understand what norms are being followed. Examples: Slack channels, blogs, emails, in-person meetings, all-hands, feedback & review calls, lunchtime conversations, office walls etc. Your strategy should have both an online and offline component.
Culture needs humans: find and empower allies who will help you sustain these efforts
Begin disseminating and reinforcing your cultural messages
Get your culture allies to moderate groups, spread the word, intervene to establish norms
Get leaders and influencers to walk the talk and be role-models
Capture stories; celebrate culture-appropriate acts publicly
Act early when someone is out of line
If needed, shuffle/replace cultural misfits (without becoming a cult; you still need a healthy mix of divergents and convergents)
And then, plan to back to the first O: culture evolves all the time and you don’t want to be dogmatically stuck to an outdated view of your world