“You need to write down your values, they’re deeper than your vision or your mission” says nearly every cheesy article about how to set the direction of an organisation.
We finally decided to have a go, nearly all employees together one afternoon tea time last week.
It took about half an hour, and was great fun. First, we each spent 10 minutes on our own thinking and writing down values on post-it notes.
I asked people to put “values that they think ScraperWiki should have”. (The conditional future makes people think positively and aspirationally). I didn’t give any examples to keep our minds untainted.
Then we put them all down on a table, saying what they were (and laughing and smiling!). Finally, we grouped them into clusters, a job which Dragon finished up later.
I’m really pleased with how they came out.
1. Technical excellence – we’re experts at data and programming. We find it fun to solve hard problems. A couple of cards about bridging that excellence – both from academia, and to businesses.
2. Excellent customer experience – this cluster had the most cards in it. Practical things like fast replies and attention to detail, as well as more emotional things like delighting our customers.
3. Open – partly that we help people use open data, have mostly open source code, and post blog posts like this. Also not locking customers in, making them feel liberated, empowered.
4. Improve world – right from the start we’ve been about how data improves the common good. Help people achieve the change they want in the world, using data to create “wins” for everyone.
5. Friendly – we’ve a sense of humour. Sunday evenings are joyful wanting to come into work (!). We’re fair and approachable to customers and each other.
There are a couple of clusters which are more about how we’re organised.
Holacracy – one card was about startup culture, the other about flat management structure. For the long term, I’m using the word “holacracy” to indicate what this means as we grow.
Liverpool – It’s the Internet age, why squash everyone into a few cities, expensive housing? Our customers are all over the world. Plus brilliant architecture, a rich cultural life, national parks.
What are the values of your organisation?
P.S. Thanks to Lee and his team at Red Ninja for the privilege of letting me watch them do a similar brainstorming exercise, which helped us to do it better.