Operational Culture

In addition to being definable, an operational culture is credible, meaning that the culture is considered a true, living culture by both members and outsiders. A definable culture with strong credibility is classified as Tier II, a culture that is operational and alive. Four vital indicators contribute to making a culture credible.


An authentic culture reflects identity, and is communicated, accepted, remembered and practiced by most members of the culture.

A culture is not credible if it contains elements that are simply infeasible to practice in reality. Proclaiming something to be a cultural component is insufficient—it must be practiced.

In a credible culture, substantial deviation from cultural practices, or non-conformity, is consequential in that people are penalized for doing so. Penalties may take the form of criticism from peers, social exclusion, administrative punishment or criminal punishment.

A credible culture has champions who are passionate practitioners, evangelists and guardians of the culture. Champions can be members of the governing body, members of non-profit organizations or private citizens who have substantial influence among members of the culture.