Key Benefits of Investing in Organizational Culture:
Clarifies how your whole organization will operate in order to be successful. Establishes a real and viable model of accepted and mutual responsibility via transparency and strong communication.
Establishes important internal network within your organization that is foundational to scaling your organization. Real culture and associated practices are exportable and self-sustaining, resulting in stronger overall execution and growth for your business.
“The work undertaken by Caroline brought my vision for the organization directly into the operations of the business. It became less abstract and instead factored naturally into every decision that we made as a team. The net result has been that our team needs very little direction to “do the right thing” – they act with autonomy and confidence which is critical in a distributed consulting organization. For my own part as a leader in the organization, Caroline’s coaching has continually helped me to see and deal directly with the reality that the team is experiencing, resulting in stronger decision making and a better relationship with the team.”
- Mike Kelland, VP Global Services, Lightbend (formerly CEO and Founder of BoldRadius)
When I joined the team at BoldRadius, it was to help them to establish a stronger process around their consulting service delivery and to support getting a number of client engagements back on track. The team at BoldRadius was a group of very smart and brave software developer consultants – each establishing themselves in their craft as being the best of the best. The CEO also had established a clear vision – one that included all aspects of organizational success: team, business and client. However, the team was struggling to maintain coherence of the vision as the company grew and needed a strong roadmap to bring the vision into daily practice.
As any business is fundamentally a system, I developed a process for establishing the culture and good practice at BoldRadius by pulling from principles and practices from UX, Systems Thinking, Lean and Agile.
First, we established three user personas to ensure that vision for success at BoldRadius was well represented (team, business, and client). We brainstormed, categorized and prioritized a backlog. We also created experiments aimed at helping us to gain greater insight into our ideas around the needs, pain points, and requests for each persona. We iterated.
From this, we undertook an exercise with the broader team to explore stories of success. We again worked together to formulate the right discussions and key questions to answer in order to surface “what makes BoldRadius successful” – from these exercises (again, including the whole team) we surfaced the organization’s core values and principles:
- Partnership over Dependency
- Curiosity over Compliance
- Collective Expertise over Individual Goals
We now had the foundational values for the team’s culture – built for the team and by the team – aimed at ensuring the success of the business.
We then established a core set of practices in order to support this culture. These included mechanisms for providing transparency as well as communication. Some of these practices included:
- Weekly all hands “campfire” meeting to cover updates from the leadership team and to discuss important topics (stressors / kudos / gratitudes) surfaced by the team.
- Development of effective remote collaboration communication for the whole team. Sensitizing both remote and co-located team members to their responsibilities to ensure strong communication by establishing presence on the team.
- Creation of information radiators on the whole business pipeline – including communication of status, progress, and risks for all client engagements. Created context where the whole team could mutually support towards success.
- Established retrospectives as a core practice aimed towards continuous improvement. Outcomes shared collectively so that the whole team could benefit from lessons learned.
This permitted BoldRadius to grow significantly over a short period of time without compromising its core values. During this time, the organization also experienced some attrition of key team members but maintained its approach to success. Most gratifyingly, BoldRadius experienced a form of “culture exportation” – as key practices adopted by the team in support of their culture were also sought after by their clients. This created the opportunity for growth within key accounts.
Based on the strength of its business and the strength of its team, BoldRadius was acquired in May of 2016 to form the Professional Services division of Lightbend – in many ways, the team continues to this day to extract the value of the culture established many years ago.