Carlos Leyva

Silicon Stories

Chapter 7: Talent Wars, E-Teams and E-Cultures

The Environment

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During the dot.com craze, companies thought they could instantly manufacture a corporate software culture by having a fully stocked kitchen, game rooms, casual dress code, and mandatory corporate fun activities. All of these culture creation props, for most of these companies, were as empty as their bank accounts.

These perks are obviously nice to have, including a physical work environment that is conducive to creativity and personal productivity, but they are no substitute for a sincere corporate culture. The burden of consistently working 60-80 hour weeks for months at a time, and spending precious little time with those you love, will not be lessened by ten free diet cokes a day.

Shared Values

It is clear that a sustainable corporate culture must be built on a foundation of open communications and a shared set of core values, which include: honesty, integrity, respect, diversity, and profitability. Your shared belief system must permeate the entire organization and manifest itself in the day-to-day operations of the business. This shared belief system should be self-evident and should contribute to your employees’ pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness (Jose can you see?).

As corny as a reference to the Declaration of Independence may sound, I believe in it wholeheartedly. One of the problems I have with most organizations is that they refuse, or are incapable of, answering the call to greatness. Their mission statements all seem to reference the same bullshit clichés that make most employees cringe. If you believe in something strongly then state it without equivocation.

Talking to Customers

Whose responsibility is it to talk to customers? Are these conversations solely the purview of sales, marketing, and senior management? Can your rank and file pick up the phone and have a conversation with your biggest customer’s CEO? Why not? Conversations like these are taking place all the time online and there is nothing you can do to prevent them. Forget the Nazi mentality of attempting to control the corporate propaganda machine; it is totally out of control and becoming more so every day.

The very thought that marketplace conversations should be controlled is based on a premise of fear and deception, of talking at your customers instead of with them. Let the conversations flow and you will be amazed by how much value can be derived from having all ears listening to the dialog.

OK I see most of the sales and marketing executives squirming, and perhaps I am stepping out on a limb here. You can all no doubt recall examples wherein an employee, not authorized to speak on behalf of the organization, said something that was clearly inappropriate and you quickly entered damage control mode. The probability of this sort of thing happening is guaranteed to increase were you to follow my advice.

So? If you are having an honest conversation with the marketplace, these things will take care of themselves. The marketplace intelligence gathered will increase by orders of magnitude. Who said there would not be bumps in the road? Get over it. Shit happens and will continue to happen, the magic lives in how you respond.

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