How Culture Data Relates to Performance: Early Evidence

by | Last updated Apr 24, 2023 | Culture

Does your team culture relate to performance?

Have you ever wondered if there were concrete connections between markers of your team’s culture and its performance? It’s a concept that as coaches, we intuitively feel, and believe to be true. We action these beliefs by mirroring behaviors and practices from some of our favorite coaches, or as we learn how different behaviors and habits impact our team, we progress. As a coach myself, culture sometimes feels too abstract and it’s difficult to understand if it’s truly moving the needle on performance. 

Innerlogic started as a concept called flolab, which was built to help sport teams monitor key aspects of their culture over time and to help coaches understand how this impacted their performance. I helped build the early prototypes of the application which has now become the foundation for innerlogic. The data we collected in flolab was overwhelmingly positive, so much so that it encouraged us to build a business focused on helping athletic programs make significant impacts in their culture. This week I took a deep dive into the data we collected with flolab in order to learn a bit more about team culture and its relationship to performance. I hope that there are some valuable insights here for you in your coaching journey. 

How did we connect culture with performance markers?

The purpose of this article isn’t to dive into the specifics of the process of measuring culture, but rather how that data connects with performance markers. While our concepts and knowledge of culture measurement have evolved tremendously since we piloted this concept, we started off by measuring aspects of culture on a weekly basis. Athletes answered questions relating to how they felt in association with the team environment as well as to how engaged they were.. 

Questions like:

“I feel a strong sense of connection and togetherness in our group.”

“I am comfortable taking risks without fear of permanent consequence”

“I believe that people are being held accountable for their actions.”

“I am interested and engaged when in our team environment.”

How do you link culture to performance?

Our early attempts to quantify player performances involved a game debrief. We automated the debrief, which would be sent out to athletes immediately after a competition to ask very specific questions about aspects of individual and the team performance. The debrief itself covered aspects related to the way the team performed in key areas, and the final question we asked was:

“Overall, how satisfied were you with your individual performance?”

The responses to this question were often highly correlated to the outcomes of the game itself with some individual variation. 

Aspects of culture increased the probability of performing well by 3.6 times!

You read that correctly. When athletes scored aspects of their culture higher the week preceding games, they were 3.6 times more likely to rate that their performance was very strong. This was based on over 300 data points. 

How culture measurement can help your team perform better:

We were shocked when we found out that these measures were so incredibly strong. This pilot data helped to validate why innerlogic needed to exist. We realized that team culture is something that not only can be assessed, it’s linked very strongly to performance outcomes. To the extent that all coaches know intuitively, there are concrete ways to reinforce that. 

Here are some important takeaways from this data set that might help you build a better culture monitoring program:

  • Culture is a measurable phenomenon. We’ve spent the last 3 years expanding on the ideas we initially formulated for flolab, in consultation with some of the worlds leading olympic culture consultants. 
  • Measuring culture gives you a benchmark in which you can compare yourself from time A to B
  • Short term changes to culture (within a month) can impact performance
  • Deliberate measurement of culture can help you build a better coaching playbook, connected to measurable performance outcomes

In sport, measurement has infiltrated every nook and cranny of the weightroom and court, in search of an edge and even a 0.1% performance advantage. When it comes to culture, the evidence is clear, it matters big time. However, it often doesn’t get measured as confidently as other aspects of performance, and we think it’s time for that to change!

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