Write Your Culture Down… But, Very Carefully

by

Culture_1

We’ve all been in companies where core values, missions and visions are plastered all over walls and employee badges, but the culture we experience is, well, different than what is described. In January, our thought topic of the month was on corporate culture, with pre-reading from Uncontainable, a book about The Container Store’s culture (I’d highly recommend the book if you are interested in this topic). As a company, we had a discussion about whether or not cultures should even be written down. While we’ve seen a few exceptions, we’ve seen many failed attempts that cause more harm than good.

I’ve had that book and our company conversation about it in mind the last couple of months. During that time, Christy and I have started to work on the next evolution of our onboarding materials. The first section we are writing is: “Managing Your Time”. I quickly realized that what we are writing down is much more important than it seemed at first glance. We have our core values, but what we write down in the onboarding materials may be just as important.

I first got stuck when I started trying to describe our vacation policy, or lack thereof. I wanted to say something like: “Take vacation. Disconnect. It is good for you. Tell the people who need to know.” In the absence of a vacation policy, we’ve had a couple of unexpected cultural norms pop-up. One is this concept of “half vacations” where people are hanging out somewhere fun, but working part time. That’s fine, but how do we know how much to interrupt them? A second norm is that when people plan vacations, they send a calendar invite to everyone, or most everyone, in the company. While this has improved visibility, I think we can all agree that it isn’t particularly scalable and there are already issues with how it affects free/busy time on other people’s calendars. The good news is that we’ve created a culture that trusts people to take vacation when they want to take vacation, but it is time to write something down about some of the intricacies of how to do it.

When I got stuck on the vacation policy, I went to write about how we track our hours. Another can of worms. We very rarely bill a client based on actual hours worked because most of our work is project-based (i.e. “fixed fee”). However, we still track actual hours worked because it helps with visibility to where we are burning hot and allows us to estimate better in the future. Ultimately, it is a key driver of profitability. So, we ask everyone to email in client related hours at the end of the month. Some of our employees have elaborate Excel spreadsheets with graphs to track their time, others just put a thumb in the air at the end of the month based on what they see on their calendar. Either’s fine. What’s not fine is that most employees who come from other consulting firms assume they should be working 40 hours a week on a client and may be driven to find 40 hours of work a week to do at that client whether or not those hours are the highest and best use of their time at the moment. We also all use different definitions of what counts as a “client hour”, so the data isn’t awesome. We think of this completely differently than any other consulting firm where I’ve worked, so we are eventually going to have to write something down in order to help guide people.

Those are just two examples. What I’m realizing now is that there will come a point in a company’s growth where elements of culture will be written down, especially, like in Thought Ensemble’s case, when you are building something really unique. While there may not be a PowerPoint presentation titled “Our Company Culture”, expected behaviors will be evident by reading job descriptions, expense policies, emails describing internal processes and everything else that is written down. If you don’t write it proactively, someone else will. So, write it down… but, very carefully.

 

READ MORE

Your Personality Is Showing

Your Personality Is Showing

There I was, minding my own business one evening, digging into my organization's SEO performance (as one does), when I came across something interesting. Search terms related to "MBTI" — or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, developed by Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel...

read more
Lessons From a Change Manager Who Hates Change

Lessons From a Change Manager Who Hates Change

Hello. My name is Monique, and I’m a change manager who hates change.   After years of receiving “consulting therapy” from various mentors, I am now able to say these words out loud and proudly. But for a long time, it felt more like an admission of guilt. I mean, who...

read more
Creativity as a Cure

Creativity as a Cure

The topic of creative solutioning has been front and center these days as we talk more and more about organizational adaptability in the face of dynamic and uncertain times. For example, I recently read about a project that got me thinking about specific priorities...

read more
Thought Ensemble, a Pariveda Company — Why Now?

Thought Ensemble, a Pariveda Company — Why Now?

Big news over here as we close out the year - we have been acquired by Pariveda, a 750-person consulting firm in 12 markets across North America! We are now “Thought Ensemble, a Pariveda Company” and I’ll be serving as the Managing Vice President continuing to lead...

read more
Thought Ensemble Joins Pariveda Solutions!

Thought Ensemble Joins Pariveda Solutions!

Dallas, December 9, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Pariveda, a leader specializing in solving complex technology and business problems, announces the acquisition of Thought Ensemble. With the addition of Thought Ensemble, Pariveda now provides holistic business strategy,...

read more
Thoughts on Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act

Thoughts on Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act

It was about a year ago that we first started hearing about Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (SB19-085) and I knew it was going to be national news. We’d just gotten past the “Rocky Mountain High” jokes, and our lovely state was trying to break new ground...

read more
Disruption Is the New Normal

Disruption Is the New Normal

By nature, disruptors are not popular. “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win, then they copy you.” We have all heard some version of this quote, and we have all seen it play out in real life. We've seen it with building...

read more
What Would You Say You Do Here?

What Would You Say You Do Here?

“I deal with the … customers so the engineers don't have to! I have people skills!” That famous Office Space quote from Tom Smykowski cracks me up every single time. I know Toms. I’ve been Tom. Change the quote to say, “IT Team” instead of “engineers,” and there’s a...

read more