The Many Layers of Company Culture
The Quick Summary
At Octopy, we know the importance of always evolving and understanding that anything might have room for improvement. This is even true of our company culture. Over the years, we've adapted our culture to consist of many different layers, enabling us to be more committed to our work, more confident in our decisions, and more compassionate in our relationships.
For the full story, keep reading.
If you're following Octopy and reading our content, you probably already know how important company culture is. It's the glue that holds things together and the fuel that keeps things moving. Having a strong culture means employees all know what they're contributing to/working toward, and how they are expected to show up for each other behind the scenes. It helps everyone to know they are working together toward a singular mission–ideally, the company's statement of purpose–and that they're moving towards it in a way that is in line with their character and ethics.
"Culture" Is Not Universal
While we know that every organization has its own unique culture, there is another factor less often discussed: That "culture" itself holds different meanings depending on the organization. At some organizations, every process, every interview, and every decision is based on and weighed against the culture. At other organizations, culture is a quote painted on the office walls and is otherwise never really considered.
Though, it is not just these two extremes. Some amazing workplaces objectively have incredible cultures, yet it is entirely implicit. No quotes on the walls, no defined values in a handbook, just a great environment of people working together in harmony. On the other hand, you also have companies that are praised for their culture by outsiders. Alas, if you take a deep look beyond the surface, it's a toxic workplace where values aren't valued and decisions made by leaders actively defy any supposed culture when it suits them.
Regardless of whether you intentionally create a defined company culture or not, every company does have a culture. It may be positive, it may be negative. It may seem great on the surface only to be suffocating to those in the depths of the organization. Thus, it's important to know where your organization stands and what the current culture is.
Octopy's Core Tenets
When Octopy first got started, we knew we wanted to help create more human-focused places of work. Naturally, that meant we had to define what it meant for a place of work to be "human-focused". Thus, we created our Core Tenets.
For a while, these served as our internal values as well. After all, we couldn't help other companies be human-focused if we weren't ourselves. Thus, the first iteration of our culture was born. We used these tenets to provide us with direction in our decision-making and it shaped how we built content and products.
However, we discovered that it didn't get as deep into our day-to-day as we would have liked. While the Core Tenets were great at describing structural & operational pieces, they lacked in the interpersonal element. It very well established what sort of environment we needed to create, but it gave little guidance in how we as people interacted with each other. We realized that, while firmly believing every human-focused organization needed these five tenets, there was a lot of flexibility for how different organizations could fulfill each of those five areas.
Recently, we went a level further and created our own set of values called The Octopy Embodiments. We knew as a company we needed to be human-focused, and the Core Tenets helped us do that. Still, we needed something more individualized to figure out how we, as a handful of Octopodes, would work together to create a workplace that would help other workplaces become human-focused themselves.
Over multiple iterations, we all got together and talked about what was important to us as individuals and as coworkers. We sought out what qualities we needed to work comfortably with others and what we needed to be at our personal best. Through this process, the current list was made.
Now, it's important to note that we aren't done. We knew that this list would not be perfect, so we were able to simply aim for what was best for and most relevant to us right now. We plan to consistently revisit the Embodiments and ask ourselves, "Are these still who we are? Based on the people who are here now, are these still representative of our collective values?" You'll see themes throughout the embodiments that hint at our willingness to experiment, as well as to be proud of something we've made while being humble enough to know when it needs improving.
These embodiments were built together as a team and every person agreed to commit to them. Now, we have ever more clarity on how we work together and collaborate on Octopy's future. Plus, it's something tangible we can hold up as a mirror in times of need and to hold each other accountable.
So, this is a good start. But there's still another layer every organization must always remember...
Our Personal Values
We are all aligned on Octopy's mission to create more human-focused places of work, we all see the value in the five core tenets, and we've all committed to abide by our collective embodiments. In addition to all of that, and even more important to all of us as individuals, is our personal values. Everyone has them, even if they haven't taken time to consider them and/or have a hard time putting them into words.
Whether we are aware of them or not, these come up every day in every conversation and decision. When sharing our personal opinions on a topic, our own strongly-held morals inevitably dictate how we feel. These too are taken into account when working together. Every member of the team has different personal values, meaning that one person might feel very strongly about a subject that seems far less important to everyone else. This is when the layers of values come in.
If someone else has a strongly-held belief about what the right decision is, but for me it's nothing more than a matter of a logistics, we both need to be aware of that. I will look to our embodiments and tenets to make sure I am respecting my peer as a unique individual. I want to understand where they are coming from and try to make room for their ethics within the decision. Likewise, they will do the same, looking to the other layers to understand and respect that my views are different.
We strive to always remember that we aren't in opposition, we are working together toward the same goal. By bringing our personal values to the table, we each learn more about one another, we each gain new perspectives, and the end-result is always better than it would have been otherwise.
We recommend taking a look at your company's culture and values. Is it serving you and helping your cause or are they just nice-sounding phrases that don't actually have an impact on the work? Feel free to check out Octopy's Core Tenets and Embodiments for some inspiration, but also make sure to chat with your employees to see what their own personal values are. Their answers may give you ideas to improve your business while also ensuring they feel more seen.