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Tag: company culture

Inspiration for a New Year

CNBC recently ran a rather patriotic “Keeping America Great” interview with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. I don’t normally read much from these guys, but there was one comment from Buffett that really struck a chord for me.

BUFFETT:  First of all, I’d say marry the right person. [LAUGHTER]  And I’m serious about that.  [APPLAUSE]  It will make more difference in your life.  It will change your aspiration, all kind of things.  It’s enormously important who you marry.  Beyond that, I would say that do what you would do if you were in my position, where the money means nothing to you.  At 79, … I work every day.  And it’s what I want to do more than anything else in the world.  The closer you can come to that early on in your life, you know the more fun you’re going to have in life and really the better you’re going to do.  So don’t be driven where you think the last dollar is presently or anything of that sort.  And then also go to work, if possible, for an organization or an individual that you admire.  I mean I offered to go to work for Ben Graham because there was nobody I admired more in the business than him.  I didn’t care what he paid me.  When he finally did hire me in 1954, I moved from Omaha to New York and I didn’t know what I was getting paid until I got my first paycheck.  But I knew I wanted to work for Ben Graham.  And I knew I would jump out of bed every morning and be excited about what I would do and I would go home at night smarter than I was in the morning.  Go to work at a job that turns you on and a person that turns you on and institution.  [APPLAUSE]

I am determined to base the decisions I make  this year on this quote.

Company Culture at Netflix

How many companies clearly define their culture and HR policy in a public way? Jack Welch of GE famously held the view that the bottom 10% of the company should be fired every year, but in the days of labor shortages that would be frowned upon. That’s why it was refreshing for me to see this slideshow from Netflix. Have a read for yourself, although be warned it is quite long and detailed:

So what do I think? Firstly it is awesome that a company publishes this kind of presentation, everyone should be proud of who they work for and have no problems articulating that to the public. I don’t think there are many companies who are so upfront, open and honest about who they are (in many cases even being aware would be a great start).

In particular I liked:

  • “adequate performance gets a generous severence package” – provocative but also highly motivating to myself at least. There is nothing better than being in a team where you know everyone cares as much as you do, and nothing worse than putting your heart into something that sits in someone’s “to do” list.
  • Brilliant Jerks –  the cost to teamwork is too high. I have had managers who make excuses for a brilliant jerk because they hate the thought of rehiring for a person that is currently letting them put their feet up.
  • Rare Responsible Person – Doesn’t wait to be told what to do, Never feels “that’s not my job”. Everyone should pitch in, no-one should feel territorial. If I am struggling I will put my hand up and ask for advice, and I expect others to do the same and welcome my input.
  • Value simplicity – No-one can manage lots of small products successfully. Focus on what works, and keep making it work even better.
  • High Performance People make few errors – Hire well, trust your people to do their job. Don’t cotton wool bad people and have checks and balances to make sure they don’t do damage. That adds huge amounts of waste and overhead.
  • Control through context– Managers should communicate a clear strategy and whatever happens within that strategy is up to the employee.

What did you get out of it? Does your company even have a policy or statement on culture?

The Top-Down effect

The org chart shows the culture flow

A company culture is something that is very difficult to describe, let alone create. One of the blogs I read, systematicHR, posted up an interesting response post which covers the top-down flow effect that a CEO has on company culture. I think the closing lines sum it up very nicely:

The CEO absolutely defines culture whether they intend to or not.  HR then further defines what that strategy will look like.

So what are some ways that a CEO can do this? Well I like realestate.com.au‘s approach of having a CEO blog and bi-annual company conferences where the CEO presents the company achievements, strategy and goals. Just engaging in this open communication helps create an open culture, but the real key is in the actual organisational strategy. As the post says, this strategy will directly dictate culture and will change depending on the nature of the business.

Having worked in a sales organisation almost 5 years I would say there is a very fine line between a competitive and a demoralising organisational strategy (and therefore company culture). The nature of sales people and cycles makes this line a fluctuating target. The two biggest things I believe are:

  • Consistency – client spread, discipline, sense of fairness
  • Communication – Competitive but still collaborative (teams help)

In the end I guess the key is to clearly communicate and inspire passion for what you do. People will pick this up whether it is active or passive and positive or negative. The moral of the story is be aware of your influence.

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