Let’s start at the beginning of the story. Companies and organizations form in order to solve a problem or seize an opportunity. The founders are focused on building. Sprinting. There’s so much to do and so little time. Nights, weekends. Worry, excitement. It’s a mad rush, and for those who succeed, these same trends continue into the growth period
Call it unfortunate or just neutral, but this is the reality: most organizations’ growing-up years are consumed with growing and not dying. All the energy is focused on designing products and revenue streams. There’s no time to even think about how the organization itself is designed – the culture that will power growth and success over time.
And as a result, culture happens by accident.
Now, of course, this is normal. But the irony is that we all know culture is the primary driver of sustainable success in businesses and organizations. We always knew it deep down, and now a plethora of studies and research have confirmed it. In fact, don’t we all want a great working culture, given it’s where we spend the majority of our waking hours?
But something has changed. People are starting to have fun at work while also working hard. You hear it in all the articles and TED Talks. You sense it in the mounting wave of tech companies and startups. There is a revolution in the workplace – it’s a revolution because it’s an unprecedented step change in both quality and quantity. It’s a massive improvement in both business results and employee engagement. Perhaps you’re even noticing that many of the strategies and approaches that granted you success in the past are not quite sufficient anymore to thrive.
So why is everything changing? The very foundations of what we knew to be true about how we work? And what do we need to do, in order to thrive in this new era? Greenhouse Culture will be answering these questions, along with proven tactics for transforming your workplace. And first, we’ll address the 3 pillars that support and guide a thriving organizational culture – Speed, UX, & EX. Here’s the background:
In the previous era (pre-internet), an organization could learn, master, and operationalize something. Take, for example, the photo album industry. In the past, a company could learn how to produce a photo album, master the process of material manipulation, assembly, distribution, sales, scale up the process, and sit back while enjoying healthy profit margins for years. The 21st century is quite different. In fact, it’s a complete paradigm shift. In the photo album example, new apps and sharing platforms are released into the market every month for taking digital photos, storing and organizing them, and sharing with friends/family or even the entire world… and it’s instantaneous. This foundational shift means a significant drop in photo album sales, and a constantly changing consumer demand. They must now shift from mastering and scaling a process, to instituting a culture of learning and adapting.
In the pre-internet era, most organizational cultures were shaped by what was familiar – military and industrial environments. Heavy on command & control leadership, and all about squeezing out efficiency to drive up speed and profits. And in many ways, it made sense at the time. But now that we are experiencing one of the largest shifts in history, the foundational ways that we work and interact need to change. It’s not optional either, or just an icing-on-the-cake improvement. It’s a renovation of the workplace culture that requires intentional design for how we interact and deliver value.
So, how can you enter this type of workplace transformation? You must address the 3 pillars of paradigm shifting that are at play:
Software has made everything faster. And it’s no longer just for the IT people. It’s an integral part of every business and organization (or should be). And the development cycle & lifecycle are accelerating. It was fast to begin with, and it keeps getting faster – to the point where it has surpassed the delivery speed of many organizations. As Jack Welch, former CEO of GE said, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” So how do you keep pace, especially in a large organization? The answer is employee autonomy.
Cultural pillar #1: The only way to keep up with the speed of software is to give decision-making power at all levels of the organization. Most effectively, at the product/service team level.
The internet of things (in a general sense) has introduced massive complexity to the way people interact with products and services – their User Experience. Think about it. You search online, read a review, go into the store, then perhaps talk with a phone representative. You interact with products and brands in many different places, and at many different times. In order to win a customer’s business and loyalty, you can’t just have a good revenue model and marketing strategy anymore. You need to win their hearts. And do it through the kind of great experience that makes them tell their friends. People have more options now, so the user experience must be fluid, simple, & maybe even pleasantly surprising. And how do you do this?
Cultural pillar #2: Orient your strategy to value people above profit so that designs and decisions are always guided by service to the customer’s needs.
Employee Experience was always an afterthought. However, technology and internet have opened the playing field to endless opportunities. Access is unlimited and also cheap. The cost of starting a company is ~10% of what it cost 10 years ago. And just this past year, the SEC opened the ability for individuals to invest up to 10% of their income in crowdfunding initiatives. Not to mention low-barrier opportunities like Kickstarter or social media based businesses like affiliate marketing and wedding photography. Point is, if you don’t like your job, you can leave. And probably make a living in the type of environment you want to work. Thus hiring, attracting, and retaining great people and talent requires great employee experience. And we’re not talking on-site daycare, nap pods, and more happy hours. We’re talking about a culture, a mission, and a workflow that enables employees to feel ownership and pride in their work, while being able to get things done easily.
Cultural pillar #3: Employee engagement is foundational and comes from everyone knowing & feeling a greater purpose in their work.
As a result, all the things we talk about (Agile, Design Thinking, Collaboration, Open Spaces…) are just the “HOW”. And that’s great news, because the pillars are steady over time while the ‘how’ can be changed, customized, and creatively implemented in your context.
So what if we rethought how we approach our work? Modernized our workplace to take advantage of these pillars that are now the reality of our world. What if we tweaked our work environment to be more like a greenhouse – naturally causing growth and great results?