Our core values build the basis for all our decision. This happens automatically and often unconsciously. If you tell your friend straight in his face that his new haircut looks terrible, that is probably because you value honesty more than kindness. Core values do not only affect our personal life but also our work life. Especially the younger generation is said to choose their job based on the cultural fit rather than the payment.
Especially the younger generation is said to choose their job based on the cultural fit rather than the payment.
Why we do what we do
What is happening at Google (Alphabet) is a good example of the importance of company culture. For a long time, one of their core values was “Don’t be evil.” The statement was in the meantime dismissed from their code of conduct but is still deeply infused in their culture. That those “core values” are more than just phrases, can be observed by the recent protests of their employees against the $90 million payout to Andy Rubin despite the accusations for sexual misconduct. This shows that company values can be more than just phrases - if you do it right.
Building our company culture
Mermaid Studios just turned 1-year old (hooray) and recently we decided that we need to define our own core values. You may ask yourself if this is really necessary for a small studio like us, we are (obviously) not Google.
Yes! ...and I will tell you why. As Mermaid Studios grew all of the sudden the number of employees almost doubled. With Hester, our CEO, being away most of the week and more new employees than “regulars”, a general insecurity developed about how things are done. Is it okay to just go for walk to free your mind? How do we communicate? Even though we all have our personal values a common ground to define our work culture was missing.
Started by define problems
We reviewed the existing process to define improvement as the starting point of the lecture and setup 3 specific goals for our team to achieve:
Creating a common value/ standard for the design outcome.
Creating agreements to clarify the goal and what is included in the project.
Creating measurement to evaluate if the outcome is good enough.
We learn from other existing business model, which is similar with us as examples to do analysis. We tried to reference some of the similarity process to fit into our team situation and test if that would help us. By applying one of the working process mentioned by Tim Brown (IDEO) to measure if there is any missing parts would lead us to reduce mistakes and errors in our existing process.
Develop the process
Based on the existing situation, we develop 2 processes to fit into the design and development journey. Start from asking a specific question in order to find out the direction of the project as specifications to define what element needed to be measured, after that creating criteria to measure if the result is meeting the requirements.
Design Specifications - Provide explicit information about the requirements for a product and how the product is to be put together as a solution to reduce the misunderstanding between designer, product manager, and the client.
Design Criteria - Create measurements for evaluating goals that a function must achieve in order to be successful in order to improve the design and reduce the risk as much as possible.
Learn by practicing
We did a reflection of some previous projects by applying the new process and see if that would help us to improve the defined issues as an exercise. Therefore we would have a clearer understanding of the process by trying it and testing it.
After we defined the new process, the team will start applying it to every future project/task in order to improve the performance. It might be hard and need extra time to get used to it at the beginning, but we are happy to have a try after we spot the value from the exercise in order to provide a better product to our clients.