Three core Values essential to creating a great Culture

A company culture is a critical success factor for the success and growth of your business. A culture is something that shapes itself, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit back and let it happen.  You can move it in the right direction, for example by defining the values that are important for your company. This is going to take some serious thinking and soul searching. Take time to do it right, organise brainstorm sessions, and involve the right people. Here are three core values that are essential to creating a great culture.

Do what you say

There is a difference between desired and real core values. In order to become real core values, your people need to believe in them and be able to apply them in their work. Unfortunately often there is a huge gap between the culture that you try to set and the one that is experienced by your employees.

Core Values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization. These guiding principles dictate behavior and can help people understand the difference between right and wrong. Core Values also help companies to determine if they are on the right path and fulfilling their goals by creating an unwavering guide.

To avoid this from happing make sure you keep it real and involve your employees when finding the core values for your company. Don’t just select values that sound good from a sales and marketing perspective. Choose values that make sense for your company. Saying one thing and doing something else will kill your credibility and will definitely not help create the culture you’re aiming for.

You can write down the most beautiful core values but if nobody can apply them, why even bother. It becomes a nice story with no meaning.

“Values are what we value” – Netflix

Honest and open Communication

Honest and open communication is the foundation of any healthy company culture. Honest communication is essential to building strong relationships with your people, your customers and your suppliers.

Communication needs to happen at all different levels in a company and should come in all forms. You can share company information in a town hall, do webinars, organise brainstorm sessions, have one-on-one meetings, send e-mails, share information in employee guidelines, have your vision, mission and values printed on the wall, you name it. As long as you take time to communicate.

Communicate everywhere, but don’t forget to also be a good listener. Communication is a two way street. What do your people expect from you?  What is going on with them?  Is their work challenging enough?  How can you help them achieve their ambitions?

However be careful that you don’t over do it. Have you ever experienced sitting down with someone in your team and after the meeting you walk away with a list of problems that need solving? And why might this be a problem? Well sometimes you are your own worst enemy. You want your team to work optimal and in order to do so you try to solve everything, even if it is not yours to solve. The consequence can be that some people stop communicating with each other because it’s easier to go through you. You spoil your team, treat them like kids, and take ownership of their issues.  People don’t learn to fix these issues themselves but always go through you!  Avoid office politics and only get involved when they can’t resolve it themselves.
For example, you have two people in your team that cannot get along. If you immediately get involved in order to remedy the situation, you get caught up in the “he said, she said”. And before you know it people are more worried about convincing you who is right than about resolving the actual conflict. In the end, by stepping in you made the issue bigger than it needs to be. It is much better to say to them, “You are grown ups. I trust you can work it out yourself. Go sit together, talk, explain what is bothering you, try to really understand each other, and get to a solution”.

Ultimately building a great company culture has a lot to do with how much people truly trust you and each other. To build this culture of trust the first two values (‘Honest and open communication’ and ‘Do what you say’) are essential.

“Communicate fearlessly to build trust.” – Spotify

Continuously improve

Perfection is an unattainable goal. So stop trying to make your company perfect from day one and just start doing it. Don’t get me wrong,  it is good to dream big. I myself believe in Go Big or Go Home. But in order to get there, you sometimes need to break up your goals in smaller containable chunks. You can’t fix the world overnight. Pick those that have the highest priority and provide a solution for them before you start dealing with the next. It gives you more focus, quicker results and step by step you can reach your ultimate goal.

At my previous company I  was brought in to fix Operations. At that time the team was underperforming, demotivated, quality was poor and attrition was high. There were many reasons why this team was so dysfunctional, e.g people where allocated on multiple customers at the same time, there were no standards, no clear communication, no proper on-boarding, no personal development, etc etc. Fixing everything at once would be impossible. It took months, years to get where they are now. By breaking it up you can gradually get better and better at what you do and eventually you achieve more than you ever thought was possible.

It doesn’t matter how much time and energy you spend on defining a process or product, there are always area’s for improvement. The only way to find these out are after implementing and gaining experience with it.

Many years ago I was working as a developer for a big company. They spent months and months on defining their development process. Once the process was finally defined and adopted by the team it wasn’t possible to improve it. Even though certain parts were slowing us down. The reason for this?  After spending so much time and money the company didn’t want to spend more time and money on improvements, they believed the process was good enough and we just had to get used to it.

In the example above the company didn’t realise that they could have made the process more efficient by allowing continuous improvement which in the end would have saved them time and thus money.

You can make your company so much more successful if you accept that there is always room for improvement. Don’t settle for good is good enough and make continuous improvement part of your company culture. Where everyone in the company is able to contribute and make it better. Your people will be more invested and become more motivated when they are involved in how things are done within your company. In the end continuous improvement has so many benefits, e.g  improving employee satisfaction, increasing productivity, improving quality, lowering costs, and decreasing delivery times.

Through continuous improvement we try to optimise our operations. – Toyota

Next time

Building a great engineering culture is not easy, there are people out there that say it is impossible: it will shape itself! I agree to a certain extent but that doesn’t mean you have to sit back and hope it happens. You can help it move into the right direction. Today I wrote about three core values that are essential to creating a great culture:

  1. do what you say
  2. honest and open communication
  3. continuously improve.

If you think this post was useful please like the post or send me your feedback. It will encourage me to write more…

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