Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Best People

The Best People

Organizational Culture

Shaping and purposefully evolving a desirable culture in an organization is a non-trivial undertaking.  Building and sustaining a culture is as much about the art of becoming and reaching our own full potential as it is about the behaviors, practices, and memes of the teams with whom we work.  It is an ongoing seeking of the highest part of our own humanity and that of our organizations.
Developing a positive culture can have tangible business effects.  Daniel Goldman, author of Primal Leadership, reported that a study of service companies found that a one percent improvement in climate correlated with a two percent improvement in revenue; real, tangible results for a sometimes intangible “soft” subject.  A challenge worth undertaking, but producing behavior changes across the board is by no means a short term project.  It requires “seeding” the organization with the right shared values and then the dedicated cultivation of those seeds over long horizons of time. 
Interviewing for the Self is a practice to help maintain cultural rigor.  It is a fundamental practice to help ensure new members are culturally compatible and to reinforce standards, established practices and norms.

Interviewing for the Self

Technical organizations have a propensity to value technical skill over all other skills. If left to happenstance, the Selves that join an organization can, through no fault of their own, dilute the culture and slow the momentum of the teams they join.  Managed effectively, new team members just as significantly enhance the synergy of a team.  In every case, we can rest assured that cultural chemistry will change with growth. 
Successfully screening for values and maintaining culture despite rapid growth and the ongoing introduction of new team members is an art.  It requires an interviewer with a strong understanding of the current culture and norms of the organization and distinctions for assessing the exhibition of those values in others. 

Shared Values

So what are your team values? Every team is different. For some teams, the values are straightforward with a touch of irreverence. One of the teams I work with now clarified their values simply:
  • Courage - Don’t be afraid to piss people off.
  • Caring - Give a damn.
  • Learning - Try new shit.
  • Motivation - Just frickin’ do it.
  • Perseverance - Don’t bitch about it.
  • Passion - Kick some ass!
  • Fun - Have fun dammit.
While these may not pass muster with HR, they are the values this team demonstrates every day. They specified them as a team and they hold each other accountable through them. They may irk the politically correct in the organization, but that touch of irreverence is actually a clear indicator of a mature, confident self-organizing team that takes ownership of challenges and comes together to face them.

What are the values of your team? How do they promote autonomy and courageous teamful action? How do you help your high-performing team maintain momentum and drive for results? I'd like to know.

Tom Churchwell