How To Create A Corporate Culture In 1 Month (No Consultants Needed!)

All the documents mentioned in this post are accessible to anyone. We’ve provided links to copies on Google Drive.


 

Before joining Appszoom, I had the privilege of having several interviews with its A-team members to make sure I could make a difference if I decided to come and work for this company. In all these interviews, I had a conversation similar to this:

– Do you have an Appszoom culture that you could describe to me?
– No, there is nothing here like an Appszoom Culture.
– Then, you don’t mind if I destroy whatever way you have of doing things?
– No, don’t destroy it!!! We don’t know how to describe it, but what we have is cool; we want to keep it and even improve it!

I knew that having a clear corporate culture that we could all share was one of my first tasks as an Appszoomer. But I didn’t actually want to be the one defining the culture, since I was the most recent one to join, and as such the one that knew the least about it!

Here’s a step-by-step process of what we did.

1. Evaluate the existing culture

Time spent: 1 week (from creating the survey to analyzing results)

We launched a survey to ask Appszoomers how they felt about a set of pre-defined values that I picked from the conversations I had had, as well as from other companies we admire. We split the results between the Team and the A-Team. The A-Team is the group of people representing the different areas in the company: the two founders, Albert, CEO, and Àlex, CTO, Xavi, in charge of Product, Leo, in charge of Business and Sales, and myself, Anna, in charge of Content, Comms and Marketing.

It was interesting to see the different perceptions these two groups had for the existing culture and need for a change. We used the results of this survey as food for thought when discussing culture in the offsite training we did next.

2. Let people talk

Time spent: 2 days

We organized an offsite meeting with the whole team. We spent a morning working all together, had lunch, took some group pictures for our website, and came back to the office.

The purpose of the meeting was almost “ritual” – something that could show the team how important our culture is. The expected outcome of that day was generating our first shared vision of the company’s strategy and a draft of the values any Appszoomer should have.

We used the World Café technique to allow everybody to participate and mix everyone’s contributions, eventually forming conclusions we could all share. I asked for four volunteers to be the hosts at the World Café tables and started engaging with some team members.

Here’s the agenda of that morning:

Part one (1 hour)

  • Why we are here and what we expect from this offsite experience, by Albert.
  • Market situation at a glance, by Leo.
  • Our strategic plan and the way we will follow up with the Hoshin Plan, by Anna.

Part two (1 hour)

  • World Café: Given this strategic plan, what projects should we start?

Part three (1.5 hours)

  • What is a corporate culture? Results of the culture survey, by Anna.
  • World Café: Given the challenges ahead, how should we all behave to achieve them?
    • Round 1: What 5 characteristics should an Appszoomer have to achieve the challenges we have seen in our Hoshinplan?
    • Round 2: Define how an Appszoomer who is a reference in [value] behaves.
    • Round 3: Draw the Appszoomer that is a reference in [Value] or the tool he/she uses to behave like this.

Part four (30 minutes)

  • Group presentations
  • Wrap up and lunch
Fearless Appszoomers

Here’s a sample of the beautiful material that was created that day, when Appszoomers started drawing what it meant for them to be part of this company.

At the end of the day, I asked for feedback. They had to score the meeting from 1 to 10 and, if 10 was not their score, say how could we improve. I collected great feedback for the following parts of the process.

The overall score was 8,55. Not bad!!!

3. Recap on their job

Time spent: 1 day (I recommend writing and sharing just the day after, to have everything fresh in mind and use the momentum effect)

The day after the kickoff meeting I wrote a summary of everything that had happened, adding all the presentations, visual materials, quotes, and the like. The hosts at the World Café tables helped me complete this summary, so it was already a teamwork job.

We shared this document with everybody and told them the next steps (as follows). Albert shared it with the shareholders too, to show them what was going on and have everybody in the loop.

4. Define the A-team’s vision

Time spent: 2 days (1 to search for other companies’ examples, half for the Sushi meeting and half to recap all the discussions on a doc)

At this point in the process, the A-Team had already realized that we needed to better define our mission and vision so that we could pick appropriate values based on the offsite meeting.

I checked out dozens of presentations with the #culturecode hashtag on Slideshare, looking for inspiration. I picked the ones I liked the most (Spotify, Netflix, Zappos, Buffer) and prepared a food-for-thought document that the A-Team had to read before we met.

In addition, these are the questions I asked them to think about prior to the meeting:

  • If tomorrow the mafia gave us a more-than-fair price for the company, just to shut it down the day after, why shouldn’t we sell it? What good thing would disappear from the world if Appszoom didn’t exist anymore?
  • Imagine we are 3 years in the future. At 9AM, we get to the office and we read an article on Techcrunch that makes us close the offices for one day and go to the Barceloneta to celebrate with a huge paella. What does the headline say and what’s in the picture?
  • If you had to choose 5 values from the summary of the offsite meeting with the team, which would you pick?

On a given day, we went out for a “meeting plus sushi.” A piece of advice: if you want your colleagues to realize that a meeting is important and requires inspiration, bring sushi to the table.

5. Share the vision and involve the team again

Time spent: approximately 2 weeks, depending on how much extra time the volunteers have for this task. 

Every Wednesday, we have a standup meeting with the whole team to share what has happened during the previous week and to follow up on the main KPIs through our Hoshin Plan. The Wednesday after the Sushi meeting with the A-Team, we shared our mission, vision, and values.

Having defined it as concepts, we needed to bring all this material to life, and we asked for some volunteers to do it. This is, in my opinion, the most important part of the process: our culture can’t get stuck on a Powerpoint presentation. You need to breathe it in every day at the office to make sure it drives the way we do things at Appszoom.

So far, this is what the volunteers have been working on:

Mission:

Appszoom's mission

Our mission at our front door

Vision:

Vision at the toilets

Our vision on the wall of the bathrooms, plus pen and paper to gather ideas to achieve it

Values:

Values

A mechanism to identify brilliant Appszoomers that live the values

In the cafeteria, there are sheets in different colors for each value. Every Appszoomer can suggest, anonymously, who deserves public recognition based on behavior demonstrating a given value, identifying an example of what s/he has done.

Our plan is to open the box every 2 or 3 months, count the votes, and award the Appszoomers with these beautiful, yet simple badges.

Appszoom's badges

Our badges

And that’s not all. These volunteers are already working on a Survival Guide for new recruits and our new About Us page on the website. More culture news coming soon!

————–

Anna Quintero, Customer Happiness Advocate at Appszoom

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