“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is a famous quote from legendary management consultant and writer Peter Drucker. I don’t think he meant that strategy was unimportant – rather that a powerful and empowering culture was a surer route to organisational success.
This one thing has constantly influenced my thinking, actions since the time I started my professional career. The part that further emphasized this thought was my first company – Kanbay. They were a true example of how culture has power of binding everyone within an organization towards a common objective, set of goals to achieve phenomenal results on consistent basis. Hats off to them as I am what I am because of Kanbay.
So when we established Verinite in 2011, it was very clearly recognized from Day One that strategy, capabilities and culture will form the powerful triumvirate of this company. And we chose the best option – implementing culture through actions “Walk the talk”. Till the time, we were a small company with operations in single location, it was easy to define and influence the culture based on the actions.
As we started growing (number and location wise) rapidly around 2017, it started posing new challenges as our actions were just not enough to give new hires a perspective so that they can easily adopt and become part of that culture. I started realising that many did not get this “culture” concept and couldn’t articulate what “culture” is and how it should influence their daily behaviour – whether working with team, peers, clients and partners.
Same time, one of my mentor recommended a book called “Delivery Happiness” by Tony Hsieh. In this book, Tony writes about how a company’s culture and a company’s brand are really just two sides of the same coin. The brand is simply a lagging indicator of the culture. I was completely inspired by his views around company culture. That’s what he says:
“Our number one priority is company culture. Our whole belief is that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff like delivering great customer service or building a long-term enduring brand will just happen naturally on its own.”-Tony Hsieh
One of the key thing from book that caught my attention was the concept of “Culture Book”. The “Culture Book” documents all the core values that are important and non-negotiable to an organization. With so many new faces joining Verinite as we grow, I thought it was extremely important that everyone is on the same page and acting consistently with what we want Verinite to be all about. It was best time to define and create our “Culture Book” so that it will serve as guiding light on expected behaviours.
The important consideration for me was how to go about defining these core values. We took an unique approach towards this. We asked everyone within organization to come up with a list of core values (based on current or past experiences or aspirations on how everyone within organization should behave) to truly reflect how each “Verinitian” should act. I wanted everyone within Verinite to play part in defining the “cultural” future of this company.
We also engaged an external HR advisory company who managed the process to give it focus, direction, objectivity and transparency. They received 40 unique attributes from entire organization as our values. They created 4 different work groups from the entire organization and used weighted technique to derive the Top 10 values out of the entire set. These Top 10 values were then given a descriptive definition and explanation to make it easy to grasp and follow.
Here is the outcome of the entire labour to define our core values. These are the 10 core values that provide a glimpse of what the Verinite culture is all about to new hires, prospective new hires, our clients, vendors and partners, and anyone else who might be interested.
Our “Culture Book” details each value so as to make it simple to understand, explains culture it is intending to build and a section which provokes associates to ask what actions they need to take to inculcate this behaviour in their daily life.
Unlike most companies, where core values are just a plaque on the wall, we want our core values to play a big part in how we hire, train, and develop our team. We have been consciously reviewing our hiring process, induction process, other important people processes like appraisals, sales and vendor processes to make sure core values continue to remain tightly integrated to deliver consistent cultural experience.
We are actually willing to share this “Culture Book” with anyone who wants to know more or even other organizations wanting to adapt it to create one of their own. Do write to us firstname.lastname@example.org to get copy of our “Culture Book”.
So don’t let culture eat strategy for breakfast. Have them feed each other.