How Unique Rules Can Build A Stronger Culture

There is an argument coming out of Silicon Valley which emphasises “the power of culture, rather than technology or money, as a driver of business success.”

Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Ben Horowitz reveals that behind many a successful enterprise lies a set of distinctive and unique practices described as “shocking rules”. These rules may be accepted by those within the organisation, but to anyone external they would sound bizarre and unnecessary.

Horowitz believes that, “You can’t create something unique and compelling in the marketplace unless you first create something unique and compelling in the workplace. Truly great organizations work as distinctively as they hope to compete.”

In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Bill Taylor reveals some of the peculiar rules enforced at successful organisations. At Amazon, Jeff Bezos insisted on using makeshift desks for years even after the company was turning a huge profit and could easily have paid for quality furniture. Taylor points out that, “…this shocking rule reminded everyone that “We look for every opportunity to save money so we can deliver the best products for the lowest cost.” ”

Another big company valued the importance of returning customer calls in a timely manner. The CEO insisted that any staff members who could not return a customer’s call that day should pass the details on to him so that he could ensure it happened. Whilst the rule sounds quite extreme, it reinforces that a core company value is excellent customer care.

This notion of bizarre and distinctive rules may make the organisations sound a bit quirky or even odd. However, what they serve to prove is that the company has defined objectives and that the whole company should work together to adhere to them. The companies sound aligned with clear communication around goals.  From our own research, we know how powerful that can be. Strong leadership coupled with clear communication and awareness within the organisation helps to maximise performance within teams and lead to business success.

So maybe this notion of ‘bizarre’ and ‘shocking’ rules is not so shocking after all. Creating a strong and cohesive team climate as these leaders have done, makes business sense.  It is their distinctiveness that sets them apart from the rest.

Zac's Challenges:

Zac’s tech business is growing rapidly. He’s gone from being a developer with a good idea to now overseeing an ever-expanding team. Zac knows that in order for the business to grow successfully, it needs to stay true to its founding values and his staff need to feel valued and engaged. Zac wants to understand if he and his team are on the same page and he needs to do it quickly and cost effectively.

Zac's PCS Solution

Zac decides to use PCS Lite to get a quick temperature check of how his team are performing and what they think about the business. The PCS Lite report quickly surfaces the fact that his team have lost sight of the organisation’s purpose and goals. Zac realises that he needs to improve his on-boarding processes and help orientate the new team members better in the company culture and vision. 6 months later, Zac uses PCS Lite to check his new onboarding process is working; concludes that the growing team are much better aligned to his vision and are generally operating in a more positive working environment.

Annabel's Challenges:

It’s Annabel’s job to help the Partners in the firm manage their clients and ensure they’re consistently adding value. Recently, Annabel has been asked by one of the Partners to find a tool or framework that the consultants can use to benchmark new clients looking for team and leadership improvement programmes. It needs to be cost-effective, established and reputable and able to be branded with the firm’s own logo.

Annabel's PCS Solution

Annabel recommends PCS Pro to the Senior Partners as it provides an objective measurement of team and leadership climate against which the consultants can build performance improvement programmes. PCS has a good track record, academic validation, excellent training and customer service, so she’s confident that it’s the right tool for the firm’s consultants to use.

Sarah's Challenges:

Sarah has to keep across the multiple training and development needs in the organisation and do it within a tight budget. Recently, Sarah’s been asked to design a L&D programme that improves the staff retention rate and helps staff feel more engaged with the changes happening in the organisation, not least the shift to more flexible working.

Sarah's PCS Solution

Sarah uses PCS to measure how different teams across the organisation are performing and look at any patterns which suggest the need for organisation-wide, leader or team training. Sarah notices that all teams and leaders have a low climate score in the Processes segment. Sarah knows that allocating budget in this area will improve performance. She works with the Senior Management Team to review the organisation’s processes as they transition to more flexible working and designs a training programme to support staff in the transition. She’s helped staff to feel supported, acknowledged and engaged which ultimately drives performance. 

Jim's Challenges:

Jim’s client has a team that’s not performing as well other teams in the organisation. The team has a high staff turnover, sickness and the lack of cohesion is impacting the team’s wellbeing and performance. Jim needs to get to the bottom of why this is happening and design effective coaching interventions which can generate tangible results for his client.

Jim's PCS Solution

Jim uses PCS Pro to measure / benchmark how the team and leader are performing across the 6 segments critical to team performance – Goals, Roles, Processes, Adaptability, Connection and Resilience. He can immediately see the disparity in Goals, Processes and Connection between the leader’s perception and those of her team. He uses this information to build a coaching programme designed align team and leader. After 6 months, the team seems to be more settled and productive. Jim remeasures using PCS Pro – the results show the client the effectiveness of his coaching intervention.