Monthly Culture Inspiration: March 2018

Every month, I post three types of culture inspiration: a visual, a book, and an article to bookmark.

Visual: CultureIQ's 60+ Tips for Strengthening Company Culture

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CultureIQ pulled together this PDF guide based on tips they've heard from their network of culture experts, including from my friends at August, LifeLabs Learning (see below also!), and LiveGrey. The tips are grouped by theme (mission and values, collaboration, work environment, etc.). This is a great comprehensive guide for ideas any organization can experiment with.

Book: The Year Without Pants: and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun

My friend Megan Wheeler recommended this book about remote work to me. She said it was equal parts educational and entertaining. Megan is a leadership trainer and coach with LifeLabs Learning, and she specializes in remote work-- so I knew if she recommended it, it would be worth a read. Scott Berkun is an author and designer who went to work remotely for a year as a manager at Automattic (creators of The Year Without Pants is his behind-the-scenes memoir. In addition to insights about remote work, Berkun shares great insights about culture in general:

  • "There are many theories about why teams of four to six work best, but the simplest is ego. With about five people, there's always enough oxygen in the room. It means on average that every person gets to speak once every five times, which is enough for everyone to feel they are at the center of things."
  • "The responsibility of people in power is to continually eliminate useless traditions and introduce valuable ones. An organization where nothing ever changes is not a workplace but a living museum."
  • "During my year at Automattic, no one ever yelled at me. I was never in a meeting that made me angry or want to storm out. The worst kinds of workplace moments simply weren't there. You can get only so angry at someone typing at you. People were polite, almost painfully so. But the best things about workplaces, like sharing an epiphany after working for hours at a whiteboard, were gone too."
  • "The most dangerous tradition we hold about work is that it must be serious and meaningless. We believe that we're paid money to compensate us for work not worthwhile on its own. People who are paid the most are often the most confused, for they know in their hearts how little meaning there is in what they do, for others and for themselves."

It's a quick and enjoyable read, but also reveals how Automattic is challenging our assumptions about how work has to be.

Article to Bookmark: How Warby Parker Makes Every Point In Its Employee Lifecycle Extraordinary

I love First Round Review. I've included articles by them here, here, and here. I highly recommend signing up for their newsletter. This article is about Warby Parker's founders, and why they believe "that creating an extraordinary employee life cycle is just as important as developing a killer product." For new employee onboarding, they "designed a custom helium balloon that features an illustration of a steak with a pair of glasses on. It says: “Nice to meat you!” These balloons are affixed to every newcomer’s desk for their first couple weeks. Other employees are conditioned to treat the balloons as beacons so they’ll introduce themselves and strike up conversations with newbies." The founders still have a weekly all-hands meeting, even though they have hundreds of employees now. "Monthly — and definitely quarterly — meetings are too spread out, in Gilboa’s opinion. When you’re building an ambitious company, things change much faster than that. It’s easy for divisions to lose visibility into each other’s work." There are many more great suggestions in the article.

Monthly Culture Inspiration: February 2018

Every month, I post three types of culture inspiration: a visual, a book, and an article to bookmark.

What is Company Culture

Visual: Alfred Lin's Culture Slides

Alfred Lin is a VC at Sequoia Capital, and formerly was COO an Chairman Zappos with Tony Hsieh. When he guest lectured for Sam Altman's ‘How to Start a Startup’ class at Stanford, he defined what culture is and why it’s important. You can watch the entire lecture here on YouTube, or see a few of the slides on kissmetrics' blog

Book: Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More by Morten Hansen

Why do some people perform better at work than others? To answer this question, Morten Hansen conducted a five-year study of more than 5,000 managers and employees, and found seven "Work Smarter Practices” that anyone can use to perform better. I love books that give recommendations based on real data, and Great At Work is definitely rigorous and research-based. For example, one work smarter practice is: "Top performers collaborate less. They carefully choose which projects and tasks to join and which to flee, and they channel their efforts to excel in a few chosen ones. They discipline their collaboration." Hansen looks at each practice from an individual and an organizational level. He writes, "Organizations and employees struggle with twin sins: undercollaboration and overcollaboration. Some people talk too little across teams and departments, and some people talk too much." There are so many more good nuggets and tips in the book.

Article to Bookmark: The Culture Factor in Harvard Business Review

In this month's issue of Harvard Business Review, HBS professor Boris Groysberg dives into culture. Groysberg writes that leaders can use both strategy and culture as levers to make organizations more effective, but often leaders know how to shape strategy more than they know how to shape culture. Culture confounds leaders because it is more elusive. But Groysberg writes, "It doesn’t have to be that way. Our work suggests that culture can, in fact, be managed. The first and most important step leaders can take to maximize its value and minimize its risks is to become fully aware of how it works. By integrating findings from more than 100 of the most commonly used social and behavioral models, we have identified eight styles that distinguish a culture and can be measured." The eight styles are based on how people in an organization respond to change (do they value stability or flexibility) and how they interact with other people (do they value independence or interdependence). The eight styles are: caring, purpose, learning, enjoyment, results, authority, safety, and order. In the article, Groysberg gives examples of organizations for each type, as well as four levers for evolving culture. Read more here.