How people work together is more important than SOPs

Culture eats strategy” is one of the most often repeated lines these days.

The question is, what did Peter Drucker really mean?


A few years ago Google decided to launch Project Aristotle, which was designed to uncover what made the best teams function so much better than others. They analyzed hundreds of obvious and not so obvious variables, and for a while, they couldn’t find the patterns to help them learn and grow strategically.

Ultimately, they discovered that teams are more effective when their work is built upon 5 key foundational elements:

  1. Psychological safety
  2. Dependability
  3. Structure and Clarity
  4. Meaning
  5. Impact

These five elements are actually quite easy to design for, it’s just the execution that’s different. That’s where our unique recipe of Culture Science© and our creative output and execution work come in. Together, we will help you build a culture and workplace that’s meaningful to your teams.

Below are the insights from Project Aristotle. What’s important to remember, is that we will help you find what’s important for your teams and design the culture and the execution strategy to help everyone connect to a greater purpose.  (THEN ADD SPACE between lines 1, 2 and 3)

  1. Establish a common vocabulary – Define the team behaviors and norms you want to foster in your organization.
  2. Create a forum to discuss team dynamics – Allow for teams to talk about subtle issues in safe, constructive ways. An HR Business Partner or trained facilitator may help.
  3. Commit leaders to reinforce and improve – Get leadership on board to model and seek continuous improvement can help put into practice your vocabulary.

Here are a few specific tips for managers and leaders to support the behaviors that are most important for effective team structures and norms. These are based on Google’s own experience, combined with our extensive research in designing for effective organizational cultures:

Psychological safety:

  • Solicit input and opinions from the group.
  • Share information about personal and work style preferences, and encourage others to do the same.
  • Watch Amy Edmondson’s TED Talk on psychological safety.


  • Clarify the roles and responsibilities of team members.
  • Develop concrete project plans to provide transparency into every individual’s work.
  • Talk about some of the conscientiousness research.

Structure & Clarity:

  • Regularly communicate team goals and ensure team members understand the plan for achieving them.
  • Ensure your team meetings have a clear agenda and designated leader.
  • Consider adopting Objectives & Key Results (OKRs) to organize the team’s work.


  • Give team members positive feedback on something outstanding they are doing and offer to help them with something they struggle with.
  • Publicly express your gratitude for someone who helped you out.
  • Read the KPMG case study on purpose.


  • Co-create a clear vision that reinforces how each team member’s work directly contributes to the team’s and broader organization’s goals.
  • Reflect on the work you’re doing and how it impacts users or clients and the organization.
  • Adopt a user-centered evaluation method and focus on the user.