Culture, put simply, is the kind of values and behavior you can expect in a given company. A strong culture reduces friction.
If you’re in a pod and you need to make a decision, common values can help you make that decision autonomously, without the need to check with superiors. This means you can act more quickly than competitors who need to “check with the boss” before they can proceed. Common cultural standards give you confidence that your behavior will be consistent with those of other units.
If your pod needs to connect with other pods, it’s easier to do the work when you know what kinds of behavior to expect – when you speak the same language and work in the same way. Pattern languages, for example, are collections of common standards that allow teams to more easily connect and collaborate. Gamestorming, for example, is a pattern language for cross-disciplinary design.
Culture can be as simple as a set of shared values, or it can be codified in rules and policies. The important thing is that the values and rules are understood and the behavior is consistent with them. If the culture says everyone is equal, the CEO better not have a reserved parking spot. Culture is built by establishing behaviors that the whole organization can and will adhere to consistently.