Culture is a 50-day moving average

In an ask-me-anything interview Jason Fried, the co-founder of Basecamp, said this about culture:

It’s all about actions. So, for example, it’s not about what you write down… The way I like to think about culture: it’s a 50-day moving average. What have you been doing as a company over the last 50 days?

I find that definition of culture surprisingly freeing and empowering.

When culture isn’t a fixed concept—established at the company’s foundation—but is the amalgamation of recent actions, we are free to critique it without tying it to the company’s identity.

And that mental shift, though minor, catalyzes change. Trying to alter what founders wrote down at the company’s inception feels impossible. But over the next 50 days, we will act, and therefore we will inevitably shape the culture.

So, we must choose how to act. Will our actions be positive or negative?

Jason Fried goes on to elaborate:

How do you treat people? What do you when people are stressed out? How do you help people? What kind of criticism or critique do you give? What kind of feedback do you give? How do you share? How do you help people who are stuck? Those are the things that make the culture, and those things can change, which is good and bad.

So, what’s the culture in your company? What have you done over the last 50 days? What can you change today so that 50 days from now you look back on a better culture?

If you want to hear Jason Fried’s full answer, listen to minute 21.