When the company culture isn’t the team culture

Always be closing

That was one of the company values this founder was excited about. But there were frowns from some of the teams not in a sales function.

“We need to be always striving to close the deal, we need to always be pushing to get the best possible value from the deal we can’

Brows were furrowed from the non-sales teams. Then one product manager raise her hand.

“I’m in product, are you saying we should alway be striving to release early?”

“absolutely,” the founder answered “we should always be striving to move fast and push our limits”

Then the tech team started getting really uncomfortable. The product manager followed “but what about product testing, debugging and quality control? how can we reconcile?”

The founder paused, “well, except for that, we shouldn’t be releasing things without testing”

This is actually quite a common dilemma, the culture of a company is more important than it first comes across, but, its also the easiest to fluff, more often than not, they end up as a bunch of nice sounding words… for something that governs the hiring culture, how teams work together and how a company tackles different problems, fudging it on a friday afternoon really doesn’t cut it.

The company’s values are how the company conducts itself, it is the result of the behaviours that are rewarded and punished, by extension, this is how we judge successful employees, and how we navigate challenging situations.

So the reality is that company culture isn’t a simple list of nice sounding words, its not exhaustive. The reality is that each team is likely to have their own culture, a subculture within the wider company culture, and we need to ensure that this is taken into consideration. Always be closing might be a great cultural value for Sales people, but for QA guys, it’s going to be weaker. We therefore need to consider which values of the culture are universal as opposed to team level cultures. You see this concept play out in real life in the military where there are layers of culture… on the top you have the values of integrity, honor and grit, then as you go down a level to a military branch you have something like ‘who dares wins’, then down to a team level you’ll have something more nuanced again.

On the surface they are all similar, but in reality there are nuances and they build off of each other, in our business application, we should expect something similar.

A company value like ‘Always be closing’ can be made more all encompassing reworded as ‘Always deliver’ – which for sales teams would be ‘Always be closing’ but for Product teams would be different (eg) ‘Always push the boundaries of our tech’; for client success it could be ‘always strive to make the customer happy’ each is the team own localised interpretation of the company’s value.

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