This is the first in a series of post looking at tools that companies have used to intentionally create culture.
What if your company's new employee handbook told you things that were beyond the basic workplace policies? What if it was designed to welcome new employees and show them the way that work actually gets done? Valve, a software company based outside of Seattle, became famous when they did exactly that. They wrote a handbook for new employees that is honest, helpful, and even funny. In 2012, the company's internal handbook was leaked online. It has quotes such as, “Nobody ‘reports to’ anybody else. We do have a founder/president, but even he isn’t your manager. This company is yours to steer — toward opportunities and away from risks.” It answers questions including, "Why does my desk have wheels?" and "What If I Screw Up?"
At its core, this handbook is a guide for employees to understand culture. As Edgar Schein writes, "Culture is the processes and priorities that people instinctively employ when solving problems and making decisions." What this handbook does so beautifully is that it makes culture tangible and explicit. No one has to guess what processes their co-workers use when making decisions.
The handbook includes an answer to the question, "How does Valve decide what to work on?":
The same way we make other decisions: by waiting for someone to decide that it’s the right thing to do, and then letting them recruit other people to work on it with them. We believe in each other to make these decisions, and this faith has proven to be well-founded over and over again.
You can download the full Valve handbook here.