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Make Your Organization
Your Masterpiece

A Culture change company


Our Four Pathways

Portfolio Answer


How do you make a breakthrough strategy come to life?

Portfolio Answer


How do you create a culture that brings out people’s best? How do keep your culture as you grow, including integrating acquisitions?

Portfolio Answer


How do you turn your leadership team into cultural leaders?

Portfolio Answer


How do you increase performance and raise morale at the same time?

New from MIT Press by Stratam principal Charles Spinosa
and colleagues

Leadership as Masterpiece Creation: What Business Leaders Can Learn from the Humanities about Moral Risk-Taking



How We Do It

At STRATAM, we draw upon rich philosophical traditions to create and refine innovative frameworks, distinctions, and practices that enable our clients to see their organization in a new light and develop new pathways to the future. All our projects are unique, as every masterpiece is unique.

We can approach the project through multiple pathways, all outlined here, or through all of them together.

Scroll back up to see the tabs for the pathways for how we achieve our results.


Culture Change

Great cultures have a unifying style and a positive organizational mood.

Organizational culture

We follow continental philosophers in claiming that social practices—people’s doings—are the foundation of culture. In one organizational culture people might admire each other and celebrate a success each morning. In another, they might each morning zealously take an online exam to perfect their skills. Your culture is made up of your doings, not your thinking. Positive cultures drive superb results. To change a culture, we change key practices.

Beyond the basic practices, cultures have a shared organizational mood such as hope or fear, among others. The organizational mood determines how situations and things matter. In hope, things matter insofar as they can help people change the world. In fear, things matter insofar as they are threatening. Whenever we enter a new organization, we get a certain feel. That’s the shared mood.

Cultures also have a style which tells people how to act. A culture with an opportunistic style has people constantly looking for adjustments to get ahead. A culture with a pragmatic style has people looking to make smart tradeoffs to get work done.

Companies with famous cultures include Steve Job’s Apple with a mood of hope and style of perfectionism. Microsoft and Dell have moods of zeal and styles of pragmatism. Google sports a mood of admiration and style of developing people. Ray Dalio’s hedge fund Bridgewater has a mood of zeal and style of opportunism.


Cultures get weak when they fall into negative moods like resentment, resignation, fear, or arrogance or when they have a confusion of moods and styles. We use a proprietary culture survey and interviews to diagnose cultures according to their mood and style. We create a diagnosis of the culture that makes the invisible visible. And then we work with leadership to design a culture that will build on the company’s legacy while embracing a style and mood that will make the company’s culture a competitive advantage.


We work with culture leaders in the company to design and mobilize a small set of new practices that convey the new culture in everyday work life. Generally, these conveying practices are in areas of reaching resolution, coordinating how work gets done, everyday performance evaluation, and celebration. Culture leaders are identified on the basis of their influence and coached to become exemplars of the new culture. We work with leadership to make sure the company’s narratives (mission and values), core processes, and key roles line up with the desired culture. The result is the creation of a distinctive culture giving strategic advantage, a masterpiece.

Scroll back up to see the tabs for the pathways for how we achieve our results.


Strategy Alignment

We work with you to create your strategic story through an iterative process of exploration and decision-making.


The vision gives the enterprise purpose. We identify a strategy as a compelling story that gives the leadership team confidence it will win and guides the team in what to do and what not to do. A great strategy maximizes your strengths to give you a distinctive competitive advantage. It both arises from your culture and guides inflections to your culture.

We work with leadership teams to create masterpiece strategies—ones that competitors cannot help but admire. We do so through an iterative process of exploration and decision-making. Questions start the process. Answers are challenged for insight and grounding. Decisions frequently open new areas for exploration. We involve key performers from multiple levels to ensure that answers are grounded in the reality of the situation. We design the conversation to require honesty, directness, insight, and boldness.

Central questions:

What is our vision for thriving? What constitutes winning for the next design of our enterprise? What is the story that will guide us? The result of this exploration is a strategy and plan for mobilizing it that unifies leadership, employees, and culture in the creation of a potential masterpiece.

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Executive Coaching

No one gets into or holds a position of leadership for long without possessing admirable,
hidden virtues.

Masterpiece Leadership

Leaders of organizational masterpieces are extraordinary and admirable because they infuse their organizations with distinctive (not conventional) values. That is why people in masterpiece organizations have a zing and decisiveness in their actions. It is right to look for the perfect design and wrong not to. Or it is right to go with the first viable design and wrong to fuss over perfection.

How do we help leaders move from
ordinary to extraordinary?

Raise awareness: We start by raising the leader’s awareness of her or his virtues and how they have created the ethical space of the organization. Typically, we find such virtues as diligence, persistence, magnanimity, firmness, lucidity, and friendliness. Consequently, the leaders’ organizations value careful and hard work, generosity, resoluteness, clarity, and caring for others. Such a business succeeds.

Find the hidden virtues

No one gets into or holds a position of leadership for long without possessing admirable, hidden virtues. For example, a leader will have a vision of what might kill her organization and a solution. However, she does not talk about that because it scares people. Or a leader might have the courage to stand alone and advance unpopular positions but does it rarely because of the resistance. A leader might be charmingly manipulative but holds back out of friendliness. Or a leader might love the organization so much that he sometimes makes extraordinary and canny sacrifices for it.

Cultivate the hidden virtues to create
extraordinary leaders

We help leaders cultivate their hidden virtues to become charismatic visionaries, courageous commanders, joyful and enjoyable manipulators, or beloved risk-takers. Their organizations value astonishing visions, courageous stands, charming solutions, or total commitment. Their cultures are of hope, zeal, joy, or admiration. Such leadership styles and cultures are masterpieces.

Background to Our Approach

Since 1992, we have been helping ordinary leaders become extraordinary. Our main publications on leadership include Disclosing New Worlds (1997) and “The Virtues of the Transformational Leader” in Business Strategy Review (Winter 2008).

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Commitment-based Management

Great accomplishments are driven by the commitment of individuals, teams, and organizations.

A new approach

Commitment-based Management (CbM) is one of the most successful management disciplines to emerge in the last four decades. CbM puts accountability and coordination at the center of driving high performance and achieving extraordinary efficiency, customer attentiveness, and innovation. CbM has been profiled in the Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, and MIT Sloan Management Review. It is taught at MIT, London Business School, and Stanford, among others. It was originally developed 30 years ago by Dr. Fernando Flores and a team that included our principals.

At the heart of CbM is the recognition that great accomplishments are driven by the commitment of individuals, teams, and organizations. Where accountabilities are weak or unclear, so are the results.

CbM was inspired by Speech Act Theory, which distinguishes classes of committed communication actions, including promises, requests, and declarations. Greater awareness and skill with these actions increases people’s ability to make things happen through communication. We have found that practices such as the Accountability Loop (pictured above) quickly increase productivity and trust in organizations.


Accountability Network Mapping extends the principles of CbM into process and organizational design. It does so by mapping the implicit network of commitments, revealing waste and lost opportunities, while refocusing the work on the senior purpose and key commitments required to achieve it. It is a lightweight and intuitive approach that engages people quickly in redesigning how work gets done. It is particularly strong for reshaping processes and organizations to support a new strategy and culture.

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social network analysis

Social network analysis maps relationships between people in an organization.

Social network analysis maps relationships between people in an organization. This can be applied to various topics such as who goes to whom for advice or to discuss work issues. The data can be used to find peer opinion leaders based on who is nominated most frequently in response to these network questions. Mathematical and graphical algorithms can be used to analyze the data in both simple and complex ways. The key feature of our approach is to identify prominent and/or critical individuals and then enable them to promote organizational culture change.

The map shows a macro view of an organizational structure with prominent individuals highlighted by their identification numbers. Each dot is an individual with the colors indicating organizational role and shape representing job title. Our SNA work is led by Dr. Thomas Valente who has published over 250 articles and chapters on social networks and program evaluation, and is well known for his books (e.g., Social Networks and Health: Models, Methods, and Applications, Oxford University Press) and writings on network interventions (e.g., Valente, T. (2012) Network Interventions, Science, 337, 49-53).

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our highly experienced professionals


Christopher Davis



Charles Spinosa

PHD, Principal


Margaret McIntyre

Senior Consultant


Matt Hancocks

PHD, Senior Consultant


Peter Yaholkovsky

MD, Senior Consultant


anne miller

Senior Consultant


Mary Ann Ireland

Senior Consultant


Luis A. Sota

Senior Consultant





And Testimonials



“Chris and his team introduced me to the principles of Commitment-based Management 15 years ago. I have utilized what I learned from them in leading multiple organizations, including large technology firms, major money center banks, an online brokerage, and technology start-ups. From leadership development to project constitution and management, these practices have directly resulted in enhanced team performance and predictable product delivery schedules.”

Vince Passione
Former President




“Our customers were so delighted by the increased visibility into our processes and the quality of our deliverables that they offered to partner with us on a new technology initiative. Commitment-based Management is now an integral component in our software testing and quality engineering practices. ”

Brian Branagan
Former QA Manager




"Jean Dunham's coaching with me and our president has been instrumental in our management turnaround, focus and communications."

Andrea Bordenca
Diagnostic Equipment
Service Corporation




“Leadership would be a safe undertaking if your organizations and communities only faced problems for which they already knew the solutions. But there is a whole host of problems that are not amendable to authoritative expertise or standard operating procedures. Without learning new ways—changing attitudes, values, and behaviors—people cannot make the adaptive leap necessary to thrive in the new environment.”

Ronald Heifetz & Marty Linsky,
Leadership on the Line



"Chris and his team helped us quickly establish timelines, roles and responsibilities, a project office, and our management practices, and worked closely with the team to provide the day-to-day discipline and focus to maintain momentum in the face of numerous challenges. The result was that we launched a new suite of offerings in record time: 16 weeks after starting the effort."

Vic Saliterman
Senior Vice President, Marketing, ADP

Nova Corporation

“Our company struggled to find solutions to deal with a major expense that was increasing at an alarming rate. it. Working with our executive and management teams in a collaborative manner, Chris and his team identified problem areas we were blind to and worked with us to develop our people, processes and tools to address the problems. As a result, expenses in that area were reduced by over 80% with annualized savings of $30-million. A more personally meaningful benefit was the coaching Chris provided to the Executive Management Team. We now have a much more candid, trusting, and respectful environment. These improvements were crucial to our success as we rapidly approach $1 billion in revenue.”

Steve Stevenson
CFO, Nova Corporation

Voith Siemens Hydro

“We embarked on a new, innovative strategy to reduce the costs of producing hydro plants. The strategy required a major change of our company in processes, tools, and even culture. Chris Davis and his team led teams involving experts from all our major global centers to design the most efficient, customer-centric processes in the industry—all based on networks of interconnected commitments. They trained our experts to mobilize these new processes and to introduce a commitment-based style of work. The results of our strategic initiative have been outstanding."

Hubert Lienhard
President, Voith Siemens Hydro

John Muir Health

"We embarked on a multi-year, multi-phased project to completely restructure our trauma care delivery model. Stratam was critical in helping us to develop the skills needed to facilitate the many changes in processes, roles, and responsibilities for a successful transition. We now have a more cohesive team and trauma care delivery model that has resulted in less variability in care and reduced lengths of stay.""

Kacey A. Hansen, RN, BSN, MBA
Executive Director, Trauma and Regional Transfer Center Services
John Muir Health

Dover Fueling Solutions

"We've had some smashing breakthroughs and are seeing exceptional business results thanks to Stratam’s work. We have alignment of purpose, culture and strategic initiatives, and the alignment is filtering through the ranks who see business results to go with that.""

David Crouse
Dover Fueling Solutions
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Contact us with any questions


Contact Us


Let's work together and achieve great things!

  • 1569 Solano Avenue, No. 264 Berkeley, California 94707
  • 510.292.9275
  • info@stratam.com



Articles and Reference Material

Leadership as Masterpiece Creation: What Business Leaders Can Learn from the Humanities about Moral Risk-Taking

by Charles Spinosa (Author), Matthew Hancocks (Author), Haridimos Tsoukas (Author)

Charles Spinosa's book on Amazon

Disclosing New Worlds: ENTREPRENEURSHIP, Democratic Action, and the Cultivation of Solidarity

Spinosa, C., Flores, F. and Dreyfus, H.L. (1997)
The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA

View on Amazon

Listening for Candor: Building Trust in Relationships that Matter

by Peter Yaholkovsky

Peter Yaholkovsky's book on Amazon



by Luis Sota

Luis Sota's book on Amazon

Transforming Crippling Company Politics

Resentment and the Politics of Blame

Charles Spinosa, Christopher Davis, Billy Glennon

View Article

Listening, Language, and Action

Davis, Christopher
Presentation to The London School of Economics Strategy & Complexity Seminar November 11, 1998

View Article

Promise-Based Management: The Essence of Execution

Sull, Donald and Spinosa, Charles
Harvard Business Review, April 2007

View Article

The Action Lab

CREATING a Greenhouse for ORGANIZATIONAL change

By Richard T. Pascale and Anne H. Miller

View Article

Taking an Expanded View of Customers' Needs:
Qualitative Research for Aiding Innovation

Flores Letelier, M., Spinosa, C., and Calder, B.
Marketing Research, Winter 2000, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp 4-11

View Article

Extending Scenario Planning into Transvaluations

Spinosa, C., Bell, C., and Flores Letelier, M.
Futures Research Quarterly, Spring 2005, pp. 5–25.

View Article

Communication Workflow Perspective on Engineering Work

Turk, Ziga and Lundren, Berndt
CIB Proceedings 236 (1999)

View Article

Person-to-Person Business Process Management

CSC e4 Solution

View Article