What is a Minimum Viable Culture?

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by Javier Munoz

The term Minimum Viable Product is well known in the startup world.

It is that version of a new product which can be deployed allowing a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort in order to iterate its feature set until a product-market fit is reached or until the product is deemed to be unviable.

The conversation in startup circles is about whether companies have been funded, at what  valuation, have they reached the proverbial product-market fit, do they have a scalable business model? When talking about the founding teams, what counts is whether or not they had previous successful exits. What´s their track record? Have they taken any company public?

However, we believe that if your intention is to build or invest in a company for sustained value creation, you cannot ignore the Culture factor anymore, even if the company consists of just two founders tinkering in a garage somewhere.

We posit here that even before attempting to build a Minimum Viable Product one has to first determine if the team, no matter how small, has a Minimum Viable Culture to deliver the company´s intended value proposition.

A Minimum Viable Culture (MVC) consists of the initial set of shared values and purpose that gives meaning to the new company and challenges the founding team to find and deliver the company´s value proposition exceptionally well.

As we review the underlined keywords in this statement, we conclude the following:

Each person in the founding team brings a set of values that form the Culture DNA for the organization:

- What values are shared among co-founders and founding team members?

- What is personally crucial for each co-founder or team member?What is worth fighting for from morning to midnight?

- What is that thing they feel relentlessly motivated to do no matter what?

- Are any of these answers compatible and shared by all co-founders?

The company´s initial values and purpose should not only be shared by founders, they should also allow them to adapt to changing circumstances quickly as they find a product-market fit and a viable value proposition:

- Are these shared values enhancing the team´s capacity to adapt?

- Do these shared values enhance the capacity for leadership?

- Is there a positive attitude towards constant change?

- Do these shared values enhance a culture of trust?

The company´s initial values and purpose should not only be shared by founders, and adaptive, they should also be strategically defined to deliver the company´s intended value proposition exceptionally well.

- Are these shared values challenging the team to be their best?

- Are these shared values truly becoming the foundation for remarkable positive differentiation worthy of inspiring stories?

- Is the shared purpose drawn from an inspiring meaningful ideal (and not just from an intended transactional result)

- Are these shared values and ideal driven purpose attracting like-minded talented employees and partners?

- Is the unrelenting expression of these shared values and purpose attracting more customers?

A Minimal Viable Culture is not definitive, just like a Minimal Viable Product is not final. As such, an MVC is simply a foundation for what should become a strong performance enhancing culture that enables the company to evolve and prosper. It should be defined and thoroughly discussed by co-founders as a preliminary step before starting the epic uncertain journey of building a new company.

To facilitate the definition of your MVC, we have designed the Culture Canvas. You may fill-up each of the blocks in the Culture Canvas and discuss different scenarios as you test different value propositions while incorporating customer feedback and other performance data. You may use the Culture Canvas in conjunction with the Business Model Canvas by Alexander Osterwalder.


If you are interested in knowing more, let us know in the comments below or drop us a line. We will be announcing upcoming webinars to cover all aspects of MVC definition soon. Follow us on Twitter @DHMovement dates and more details.

About Javier

javierIn 1995, Javier started his first company, a Web design firm in Miami mostly focusing on providing services to small businesses and entrepreneurs. To do his job, he found himself asking questions about the founders, about their purpose, vision, values, products and services. In many occasions, he realized the answers to these questions were not clear. So, he found himself coaching customers on how to clearly define the fundamental aspects of their business. He did it even as he realized it was not supposed to be part the job. However, he enjoyed it tremendously! From these humble beginnings, Javier has built a career out of following his passion… helping people, and building tools to simplify their processes and create greater happiness at work.  You can follow Javier on Twitter @justaction!

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