In the middle of the Corona winter 2020, the following request reached us.
“Can you support us in the process of finding and formulating our company values?”
We quickly found out, that this wasn’t a completely usual request. The company behind this question was a grown out startup company, founded in 2013 with a team of 80 people by now. One could feel that the culture was great and well-designed.
So far, the two founders and the core team embodied the values by simply living them every day.
Since a transition in leadership was about to happen, it was time to formalize and define the already lived values, wrap words around them in order to let them continue to shape their work experience.
“Our goal was to define and formalize our company values. Bringing in Eva-Maria & Karim from culturedesign.org as external consultants in this process has turned out to be a good decision. They came in with deep curiosity and passion & customized the process to our needs at Studydrive. We felt guided and supported and are very satisfied with the result”. Philipp Mackeprang, Founder and former CEO Studydrive
Define and formalize values for an 80 people team, online.
Timeframe: 2 months
Very quickly it became clear to us, that we needed to reverse engineer here.
There was a legacy of lived company culture in front of us which needed to be made visible, not the other way around as it is often the case.
We had two months to do research, synthesis and finalize the values. Different to the initial plan, we had to cut out the in-person workshops due to lockdown restrictions.
We observed and listened to stories and experienced how the values are lived already, would distil the essence and find words for it.
We worked in three phases.
I Research phase
II Synthesis phase
III Definition, finalization phase
Collecting data points
Research: We screened and researched existing internal material such as handbooks, strategy documents and the companies public material such as the website & social media.
Storytelling with leadership: What followed was a storytelling session with the leadership team. We got to know the reason why the company was founded, the challenges from the beginning, tales of friendship and appreciation for the different but very complimentary work styles of the leadership team.
Team stories and experiences: In order to listen and feel into the organization, discover how the work feels and what makes people stay so long in the organization, we set up 16 qualitative interviews.
Company-wide survey: To gather even more perspectives and give everyone the chance to contribute and share their perspectives and votes with us, we used two surveys in the entire process and send them to the team of 80 people.
Phase II and III
Synthesis, defining, finalization
We gathered, clustered and made sense of the different stories and data points.
We distilled the first set of values, presented them to a group of ca. 15 people, gathered feedback, iterated, refined, collected votes via a survey and finalized them with a small team.
One of the most crucial points for us in this process was, to map real lived behavior to the values.
It was a joy to do so. As said in the beginning, the company lived their values first instead of putting them up on a wall and profess them. So we focused our efforts on the behavior and experience and found the matching value for it. What helped us in this process were the materials on values and behaviors from Brené Brown.