Post-Covid Office Culture

Culture of Chaos ,Vision

When Pinterest pays $90 million dollars to get out of a lease (and this somehow registered as good business), then you know things are changing.

Companies that don’t need to go back to the office won’t. They’ll invest in off-sites on a yearly or quarterly basis to align their teams. Some will have small offices with a lot of meeting rooms, kitchens and creative spaces. Other than that, it’s all about getting better at defining the remote work culture.

Calling it “remote work” actually hurts the company because it enforces the notion that we’re all alone. A better term to use would be distributed workforce, or the networked company.

Whatever you call it, the shift has actually exacerbated any problems a company had before the pandemic. Bad meetings are now intolerable. Unclear accountabilities are now pain points. Defining roles, responsibilities, expectations and boundaries are extremely important now.

How to Get Everyone to ALL-IN.

Great cultures ,Hacks ,Vision

Alignment is the name of the game, but as you may know from my book, The Culture Blueprint, you can’t force anyone or it will not work. Alignment is about a) making the vision clear and b) removing the obstacles to create a true option.

Here is how you do it:

The R.O.B. Process

I thought of this on the spot when I met with a leadership team that was arguing. I was amazed that the acronym spells my name.

  1. State the GoalThis can be a project, a goal, a vision, or even alignment to the team. In one case this worked to have everyone commit to the leadership team as their top priority rather than their respective teams each leader is managing.
  2. Go Around the TableAsk if each person is all-in. If they are, go to the next. If not, ask them to consider one of the following:

R: Request

Do you have a request of someone else on the team, or the entire team? The more specific the better. This can be for resources, permissions, or anything else.

O: Offers

Someone may feel they are undervalued and want to participate more. In this case they can offer time, people or resources to anyone else.

B: Boundary

Do you have a boundary that is being crossed? This can be a limit in spending, or use of your team, or a policy or a principle.

3. Go Around the Table

Ask if each person is all-in. If they are, go to the next. If not, ask them to consider one of the following:

Once they do this, and the element is agreed upon by the respective person they address, you then ask again: Are you all-in?

This may take several rounds because new things can come up, or someone may have a new offer once they hear another’s request.

It’s not the software

Tools ,Values ,Vision

workplace software

You’ve probably heard this one…

The story about the company that was so excited to bring in the new intranet software so they could finally get everyone on the same page, share knowledge, stay up to date and unify the company, and then… no one used it.

Something happened when we started using the word “Human Capital.” It used to be called “Personnel” – as in real people. But companies got so big that people became numbers. We then start to track them, count them and trade them like they’re any other resource. Just one of several cogs in the machine.

People are emotional, irrational, passionate and full of surprises.

Some will read that and be terrified by that statement.

Others will know that this is the source of innovation, fun and ingenuity that make work exciting and that enable us to solve the world’s biggest problems.

Now that more and more companies understand it’s all about the culture, along come all the people who think software can run the show. Graphs, numbers, input/output, dashboards….

“Ahh, I finally have the feeling that I’m in control of the people situation!”

Guess again.

To be fair, some visual tracking can be very helpful. Especially with simple elegant systems like NPS. But anything more than that comes with a few issues:

1. Survey fatigue

2. Nothing actually happening with the results of said surveys

3. The feeling that people are getting dehumanized

I saw a meme on Facebook that read, “Do you ever notice your successful friends are never posting inspirational quotes?”

In that spirit, have you ever noticed that the really successful cultures aren’t using complex systems to track how happy their people are?  When you’re clear on vision and values, and get the right people on board, people can create their own happiness.

Let’s get back to the basics.

In the spirit of the Mr. Rogers documentary that just came out:

“Life is simple and deep.

But we make it complex and shallow.”

-Fred Rogers

Move Slow to Gain Speed

Vision

google-glass

“The fastest way to move cattle is sloooooowww.”

Hearing this quote it hit me that maybe moving fast can actually be harmful.

A friend posted about how amazing it was that Google created a Google Glass prototype within a day of the idea.  Hmmm… That’s a good innovation story if it were not such a disaster. There are a lot of people out $1500 for a piece of plastic.  How is that a win?

I get that we should encourage failure, but what if the irony is that speed of innovation is actually at the root cause of failure?

I was speaking with a company that’s growing tremendously fast and they are hiring hundreds of people in months. That is incredibly risky for culture. Yes, we want to keep up with growth, but at what cost?

Think about Elon Musk and Tesla. They didn’t rush. In fact they said, you can pay us to be on our wait list, and we’ll get back to you when we’re ready.

They took their time, in the name of excellence and quality.

That said, I’m a huge fan of increasing capacity when it comes to customer service. Customers will be forgiving of a lot of errors if they feel they are being given a lot of attention. At Zappos we built up a bench of people because otherwise it’s impossible to answer a call in under a minute.

If you’re thinking about growth, here is the fundamental question to ask yourself…

What is more important? Momentum or Clarity?

Momentum can drive you 100mph into a brick wall. Clarity means no matter what the speed you’re going in the right direction.  That’s slow growth. That’s taking more time with innovation.

The Latest Culture Shiny Object

Great cultures ,Values ,Vision

going-teal
(graphic source)

The latest fascination on the edge of management is “Going Teal.” You can learn about it from the article and from the graphic. I’m only going to make one basic point I’ve seen everyone leave out:

You can’t go straight to Teal.

Notice that what is listed in every other level is still applicable! You can’t simply throw those things out. And if you’re not solid in those areas then that’s where you need to start.

Recipe for a “Hell Yeah!”

Hacks ,Personal Exploration ,Vision

robertrichman-hellyeah

“It’s either a Hell Yeah, or it’s a No.” – Derek Sivers.

I’ve found this quote to be a great decision making tool. We have so many choices of how to spend our time, money and energy. So why do anything less than a “Hell Yeah!”?

Not only can it be hard to say No to things. It’s not always easy to evaluate an opportunity and understand if it’s really a Hell Yeah.

So here is a decision-making framework I developed.

It starts with, is this my unique ability? (a concept pioneered by Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach).  A unique ability is a talent that you have passion and skills for, there is a need for it, and most importantly, you feel it gives you energy.

Next, I’ve found that amorphous opportunities can lack a clear end goal and a first next step. This key to know what we’re committing to.

The last two are my favorites.  “If I know for certain this will fail, is it still worth it?” If the answer is yes, it means the journey and the learning make it worth it. If it’s no, then be careful of the ends justifying the means. Can you pick opportunities that are inherently worth it?

And then, “If I know this will be much more work than I thought, is it still worth it?” Projects look so easy when they start, and then all the details come in and we spend far more time than we expected. Do you look at that possibility and say, “Yes! I love working this on anyway, so bring on more of it!” Or do you say, “I’m doing this because it’s fast and quick”?

If your opportunity or idea passes all of these questions, then you’ve got a Hell Yeah!  If not, just remember that leaving space in your life or schedule will allow you to focus on what you already care about, or leave space for something new to come in.