This article is a chapter of our ebook, The Qulture.Rocks Guide to a Kick-Ass Culture, which you can download in full here.
“Culture happens. Whether planned or not, all companies have a culture. Why not create a culture we love?”
“This document [the Culture Code]… is part who we are, and part who we aspire to be. When something is aspirational, we will try to call that out.”
– Hubspot Culture Code
“How does a leader go about creating something that, on one hand, is so important, but on the other hand, seems so amorphous? It can be done through the creation of an organizational constitution… A formal document that states a company’s guiding principles and behaviors. These liberating rules present the best thinking on how the organization wants to operate. The constitution is a North Star that outlines the company’s or team’s defined playing field for employee performance and values.”
“A company’s culture evolves over time based upon the beliefs and thoughts of its leaders (cause), and that logically leads to consistent behavior, decisions, and actions demonstrated by members that live in that company’s culture (effect).”
“If leaders want that culture to evolve, they must take action to clarify their desired culture (defining it in behavioral terms), model their desire culture (living it in every interaction), and hold everyone on the team and company accountable for living it in every interaction.”
– The Culture Engine
The answer is “yes and no.” As Hubspot’s Culture Code states, cultures happen, and every company has one. But very few companies have taken this matter with their own hands. Why not shape, nurture, and steer the company’s culture?
In our work, we’ve seen that just by starting to think about its own culture, a company can gain a lot of knowledge about how it operates, and really, correct the direction of things that don’t please it. We’ve seen many teams successfully change aspects of how things are done within a company after giving the matter a lot of thought.
Looking at the way things are done in your organization, are you happy with the diagnosis? If yes, great! Now formalize it in writing. No? Change what you need, and then formalize it in writing. Even if some aspects of your culture are aspirational, people will know it, and be conscious about it when doing their day-to-day work.
Alfred Lin offers a way to go about designing your culture: “So how do you create a set of values and define the culture etc? Get asked that a lot. You have to start with the leader of the company and the founder, and ask yourself what are the values that are the most important to you? Of those things, that are most important in the business? Who are the types of people you like working with? And what are their values? And through that you distill together what a set of values are. Think about all the people that you've never liked working with. What values do they have? Think of the opposite of that. Maybe those should be considered values for your company.
Finally remember the values have to support your mission and if they don't support your mission, you’re missing something. Then the last final checks are they have to be creditable, they have to be uniquely tied to match your mission. So at Zappos, in terms of uniquely applied to the mission, we were focused on creating a culture that was going to provide great customer service. So the first core value we had, was to deliver wow through service. We are very specific that we wanted to deliver great customer service and it was going to be a wow experience. And then below that we wanted to serve.”