How to Launch a Culture Initiative and Sustain it
Who cares about culture initiatives?
If you have ever worked for a tech company, you will be familiar with the idea of culture initiatives. One of the biggest selling points for a company is the ability to create a culture of fun-loving individuals. For the most part, work in technology in similar industries are ubiquitous. What I am working on at Company A is much the same as what I would be doing with Company B, albeit with a few spins and turns.
What differentiates a good company from a bad one is their culture (and of course, $$$, benefits, etc.). Culture is a little more hand-wavy and intangible. The significance of a good culture could go as far as covering for a $10-15k difference in compensation. Why? At least for me, money isn’t everything. If I hate the people I work with, or the overall image of the company, I wouldn’t choose to work there. Likewise, if I know that I work with great people and have the opportunity to showcase those good qualities, that’s a major win.
Inverting the locus of control, I want to talk about how YOU can launch a culture initiative and more importantly, how to sustain it. On the other hand, if you really struggle to launch one, you can reflect on how to improve for next time and even discover some potential opportunities for growth (for yourself or the company). And the plus side is that you contribute to your company culture, making it another reason why you like your company. It also furthers your career and it rarely hurts to see come promotion time.
Enough blabbering, let’s get to the crux of the article. In my experience, the following steps have helped me to distill the appropriate culture initiative to launch and how to maintain it:
- Find something you’re really passionate about
- Your passions should be directly related to the level of maintenance required
- Start small
- Get stakeholder buy-in
- Cater to the 1%
- Don’t let your ego get in the way
Find something you’re really passionate about
This step is simultaneously the simplest and the hardest. Without some level of self-reflection, it’s hard to really know what you care about. The key to the longevity of a culture initiative is finding something that is open enough to continue to find new material or more ways to dig in to the topic. If you are really passionate about an extremely niche topic with a very finite direction, the initiative won’t last very long.
Find something that gets you going and makes your mind buzz with possibility and creativity. Public speaking (like Toastmasters) is something that gets people excited and has very deep level of experience required for mastery. This reminds me of those board game slogans: “easy to learn, hard to master”. I just discovered that this is now called Bushnell’s Law. Whodathunk?
Your passions should be directly related to the level of maintenance required
If you’re extremely passionate about the initiative, go ahead and dream big. Remember, however, that there is an ongoing cost to initiatives. This cost is not always monetary. The time required to prepare, to plan, and to oversee logistics of the initiative should be considered.
For example, if your idea is something that you care about but are not deeply invested into, try to keep the initiative as simple as possible. Maybe host a gathering every month or so for a meetup. Or send out a newsletter. Whatever you decide to do, make sure that it does not take up more time than you care for it to, elsewise, you may be inclined to forgo the initiative altogether. That would likely be the worst-case scenario.
I always recommend people to start small with their side projects. Make sure you can deliver an MVP and address your own problems first. Don’t worry too much about solving all the flaws of the world yet, and just make sure you build something or create something that you, yourself, are proud of.
Never underestimate the power of starting. Sometimes, that’s all you really need to do before the idea takes off and you get more staunch supporters (and more importantly, co-maintainers).
Get stakeholder buy-in
Although it’s fun to build in a vacuum, make sure you’re hitting a chord that resonates with people. It’s important to make sure that someone else sees the value in your proposition. It’s even more important when that someone holds the purse strings.
Don’t forget that not everyone shares your background, experience, or general nerd-like energy to build something for the sake of building it. Be empathetic and do some research into what your stakeholders care about and make sure to impress them.
Cater to the 1%
Aim to please the most diehard fans of your idea. Those are the ones that will keep you motivated and encouraged despite what challenges may waylay you. It is generally not enough to cater to the masses and to make everyone happy. If you can make 1-2 people extremely happy/passionate/inspired, your initiative will have been successful.
One of the best articles I’ve read on the topic is from Taylor Pearson. I strongly recommend reading the full piece.
Don’t let your ego get in the way
Finally, don’t let yourself be the enemy of your success. Once your initiative has stabilised, look to pass on the reins. At least start thinking about it, for the sake of the initiative. Change and growth are always required, and you have to remember that there’s always someone else out there that’s better.
That’s all, folks. I hope these tips have been helpful and of some use to you. They’ve really helped me to launch some cool and memorable initiatives. As always, a little bit of luck never hurt.