Flight Culture Mapping


Case Study Notes:

  • Prior to running Culture Mapping initiatives, we like to provide the “Airmen Roles in Unit Culture” workshop that provides foundational workplace culture academics and an overview of the Culture Mapping process that can be viewed and downloaded here.
  • Want to learn how to run Culture Mapping sessions? Check out the Culture Mapping page in the academics section.

BACKGROUND: A brand new Flight Commander and Flight Chief were taking over a flight for the first time and wanted to better understand the existing culture within their team.

PHASE 1: We held three Culture Mapping sessions for all E1-E5s within the flight of nineteen members. All E6s and above were excluded because they were considered Flight Leadership and it was determined that their presences within any of the sessions would influence participant responses. Below are the raw results captured from all three sessions.

PHASE 2: After the raw results were collected from all of the E1-E5 sessions, the Flight Commander and Flight Chief then reviewed the raw results with three themes consistently identified across all sessions including communication, psychological safety, and micromanagement. These three themes where what the Flight Commander and Flight Chief decided to primarily focus on improving over the next three-to-six months.

PHASE 3: A Flight NCO call was held where the Flight Commander and Flight Chief shared the three identified themes (without sharing the raw result specifics) so that the group could collectively develop problem statements for each theme.

PHASE 4: Another Flight NCO call was then held with the focus of developing solutions and ways forward to either mitigate or prevent the problem statements from taking hold again. Below is the deliverable once Stage 4 is complete that the Flight Commander and Flight Chief then shared with the entire Flight, Squadron Chief and Squadron Commander.

Six months later, the Flight Chief and Flight Commander repeated the Culture Mapping process to determine what progress was made and to repeat the developmental process. Below are the raw results. Notice how the raw results highlight new areas needing addressed, new blind spots, while the previous problem statements relating to communication, psychological safety, and micromanagement were resolved. By design, Culture Maps draw-out more negative than positive attributes, so it’s not recommended to use Culture Maps as a way to judge team performance based on the number of positive vs. negative attributes highlighted. Rather, use Culture Maps to determine if the previous ways forward were effective or not and to continuously diagnose blind spots.

Culture Mapping 2.0

In February 2022, we’ve expanded the Culture Mapping process to include a pre-session Google Form survey that, when paired with the in-person session data, allows us to build the following graphics. The intent is to illustrate areas where misalignment might exist in the processes that the team uses and the way team members and the chain-of-command communicates with each other. Check out the Culture Mapping, The Eight Types of Company Culture, and the Tribal Leadership Stages pages for more details.

Concept by HBR and was adapted for the Air Force by Project Nomad