On a monthly basis, someone will ask me about our culture. Often they've visited the office or met one, or some, of the team through an industry event. For whatever reason, they get a feel for who we are and what we're about. And they want to dig deeper.
Usually, that goes something like this:
"Your team seem to be really bought into the company, what's your culture?"
Answering that question is not that straightforward, but I do my best and it inevitably leads to a follow-up, query like:
"And how do you actually create your culture?"
Notice the important word "actually'"...
I get it. I've read lots of books and articles, listened to podcasts and lapped up anything on 'culture'. There's a huge amount of good information and opinion out there, but generally, it's principle-based. Which isn't a bad thing, except generally we're left craving a few practical ideas to put into practice. Something that we can actually go and do.
I've written before about how a culture simply relegated to a set of values in a document is useless. It won’t be embedded in your organisation. It won’t influence your decision making. It's a tick box exercise and nothing more. A bit strong? Maybe, but I do feel strongly about it.
The way we "actually" implement our culture is to know what the cadence of our cultural moments is. By cadence, I mean how often a regularly scheduled thing happens.
If you can articulate your cadence and the activities you undertake, then you can answer the question of how your culture is implemented.
Here's how I answer it for Brightec.
We start every week with some of our biggest cultural moments, on a Monday morning:
As a team, we eat together every single Monday morning. Why? Because it sets us off on the right foot, it speaks of serving; of family attributes and of employee wellbeing being the centre of what we do. If we didn't have this ritual, we would rush headlong into the working week ahead.
We use a physical kudos board to praise each other. When someone notices a team member has done something special, they move a kudos magnet on to that person. Every week we look at the board and celebrate each other's achievements. This allows us to actively and regularly give encouragement. We've written about our kudos board here and here.
Value of the Week
Highlighting one of our values each week allows us to recap what it is and what it means. It is a simple but effective activity that keeps our values alive and in our mind. We’ve written here about how we came to create these values.
Coaching is a huge part of our culture and a practical way to pick up cultural points on an individual basis. We've written about it here.
Amidst the passion of our work, we want to be sensitive and compassionate towards each other. It's one of the best tools we have in our arsenal to ensure our team are being looked after.
Research and Development
Every month we take 2 days out to work on the company and make things better. We start with a whole team retrospective and we have a special lunch together on the second day. This time allows us to work in teams that we usually wouldn't. It allows us to progress and drive forward things that aren't always 'project specific'. Again we've written about it here.
The Quarterly Update
Every Quarter Andy gives a presentation that reveals the company's current financial standing. It also covers how we are implementing wider decisions and vision. Its purpose is to create team buy-in and promote openness and transparency. We go into the reason why we started this ritual in this post.
Sometimes it's nice to get out of the office. It's also good to allow people to bond outside of work. We do a few team trips a year, sometimes involving our families and sometimes it's solely the immediate team. This means we never forget the love of life.
There's a bunch of other activities that we do as a company. These are only the main ones. I've answered the question of "and how do you actually create your culture?" so many times now that I felt it helpful to get the answer down. If any of our ideas above do help you then please reach out and let us know.
Our good friend Vanessa O'Shea has written a brilliant book on this subject. Check out: http://www.cultureshapers.co.uk/books-on-culture-change