Nothing is as satisfying as seeing people thrive at the office. One of the best way to create a highway of thriveness is to define a working/office culture. Thanks to an extensive groundwork we now have our true north vision to where our highway should lead us. But what if there are many highways with a lot of intersections and traffic lights? So, how do you avoid friction, queuing and reroutes and still keep the thriveness alive?
A sense of “WE”
We had these problems. We had teams with different culture, different ways and views of how to make software development. Teams that alienated from the rest of the department. There was talk about a common platform but there were no alignment of code standards, frameworks or user interfaces, knowledge sharing across teams was minimal. The sense of “WE” wasn’t strong.
What a department needs
What we needed was a common idea of how we should work as a department. It should illustrate how we should act as colleagues, as professional software developers, as process owners and as platform creators.
A culture can only exist if it is shared
We used the same format as we used for creating our vision. With the whole department gathered we asked ourselves - where are we in 2 years? How do we as a department work and collaborate to reach our vision as smooth as possible? How would we like to have our culture?
We used the SMART goal method (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound) as a way to start creating and collecting ideas.
- Everyone got 15 minutes to write down goals or a state that we should be in within 2 years.
- After that we met in groups and presented our ideas, refined them and took in aspects from others, time-boxed to 20 minutes.
- After a moment of reflection, we all gathered and those who wanted presented their goals.
- Finally, I gathered all notes and told the department that I would consolidate them into one mission.
Again, as with the vision definition, many ideas are similar but with different touches. My ambition was to bring along all the diversity to make the mission as rich as possible. Everyone should be able to see that their ideas and goals within the mission. I also made sure that our company values (Trust, Like, Respect) was visible within the lines of text.
Something everyone can agree upon
I made the summary in dropbox paper tool where I can invite the whole department to read and comment, leave suggestions etc. After some iteration, we had a nice mission that everyone agreed upon, that everyone can stand up for, a state we all want to be in within 2 years.
The final touch
When we were done, I printed the mission in several A3s, one for each team, and asked all within the department, including the CTO, to sign it by hand. This action manifests how serious we take the mission, that all of us are aboard.
The mission statement
Stratsys Software Development Department Culture
2 Year Mission
We have an attractive workplace where we are known to have an awesome culture:
A workplace that we can proudly recommend. We are a diverse group that values our differences and listens respectfully to each other’s ideas. We really feel that each one of us is growing professionally and at the same time have a lot of fun doing it. Having the mandate to pursue our customers satisfaction with our innovative ideas in symbiosis of developing the proper technical solutions gives us pride in what we do.
New employees become team member from day one. They will quickly notice how glued all teams are, one for all, all for one, where domain knowledge is shared by all members.
We measure our efforts by its impact to our users and it has transformed the way we think about output. We continually adjust our solutions in iterative steps based on what we learn, in the name of simplicity.
We are recognized by using state of the art technologies and we always promote to explore new things as long as it takes us one step further towards our goals and vision.
Our agile process is constantly scrutinized but we now feel that it reached a galvanizing state enhancing our efforts.
Good quality is our mantra and the teams have really arisen so that bugs hardly exist anymore. Our platform has now been blessed by a minimum of legacy code, the code is easy to read, change and maintain, our platform is a successful launchpad for developing new apps. We don’t think too much about release plans, instead we deploy when there is an added value for the users.
All contributing things above gives each one of us a clear purpose that make us leap into our office eager to take on any challenge.
Now that we have a mission…
The next step was to define what we should focus on the first year. What needed to be changed and improved to reach the mission? What are the biggest pain points right now? Me and my colleague Anton Sjöberg had some discussions and came up with the following four corner stones:
- Tech debt
- 4.0 (customer rating)
Going into this project I had one huge concern: that our ideas would clash and as a result our department would fail to unite. My concern was wrong. Everyone was eager to contribute and adhere to a new culture. I was surprised of how smooth it all came along. This was much easier than defining a vision, in retrospect I would have reversed these workshops starting with the culture mission.
Now having both a Vision and a Culture Mission makes things much clearer for us as leaders and the teams feels more aligned, and the department is working together. This is powerful stuff.
If you still don’t have any of these in place you should start now!
And one more thing…
Regarding our efforts towards Quality and Tech debt you can read about our initiative Project Ernst. We also used these four corner stones in our performance appraisals. More about that in our next blog.