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Foundational beliefs about culture-building

25.04.2021

When it really comes down to it, this project is really about creating company culture. These are the things I believe about how organizations do that.

Belief #1: Company culture should be thought about from the perspective of an employee in the corner of your organization.

  • This is difficult in practice, especially for company founders or leaders, in particular, because their experience of how things work are skewed. Everyone’s default mode is to see things from their own perspective and it takes a lot of work to get closer to the truth. When you think about culture, picture an employee you haven’t spent much 1:1 time with lately and how they might be thinking or feeling. Don’t know? Just ask!

Belief #2: Culture is reinforced through anything the company does with the audience of itself.

  • When employees think about company culture, they think about how it feels to get the work done. When companies think about facilitating culture, they gravitate towards tactics that have nothing to do with the work itself (team gatherings, company swag, etc.). The reality is that culture flows through any and all internally-facing mechanisms (ex- your company all hands, your communication norms, your internal comms, the way you review work). This will ooze out into the stuff your users see, but it starts at home.

Belief #3: Company leaders can be much more prescriptive than they think about how their company operates.

  • Many high-performing, well-intentioned company leaders believe their employees do not want to be told what to do. In my experience and research, people are eager to embrace operational quirks that make things more efficient. Doing things your own special way at your company is a feature, not a bug. Think about it in terms of culture-market fit (with a growing team and user-base operating in a dynamic ecosystem). A unique approach is required  to execute well, with your particular team, at your particular company, with your particular users, in your particular industry.

Belief #4: When implemented well, everyone will find the company and their colleagues a source of support in getting what they want.

  • When you outline what the special way you do things is with clarity and gusto, everyone can lock hands and support each other in doing it that way together. Doing so not only creates meaningful connections across your company, it makes the work better. Why? When employees share a belief that the everyone is there to help each other do great work and rely on each other for that support, an incredible flywheel of trust, efficiency, and stellar execution starts spinning.

 

Working with the Kool-Aid Company

If you share these beliefs and you’re looking for some hands on support implementing the tactics I advocate for, send me a note! These are the kinds of things I’ve been working with a small handful of organizations on.

  • Establishing principles and norms for company-wide work 
    • Think: reinforcing a habit around running retrospectives or re-designing your approach to internal comms
  • Writing foundational documents and templates 
    • Think: operating principles, a longterm vision document, creating a custom weekly check-in template for business units
  • Implementing processes and forums
    • Think: setting up a launch review forum to review materials before they are shipped, a way everyone can contribute to and digest user feedback
  • Creating traditions and moments
    • Think: new hire gift, peer-to-peer recognition for great work, artifacts for your office/WFH desk spaces