8 examples that make Tori’s company culture tangible

If I could get a dime every time someone tells me company culture is something intangible and it cannot be described, I could stop blogging to you and drink margaritas in Spain. It really can be made tangible. Our customer Tori’s culture inspired me to give you an example how to.

Evaluating culture fit is truly an essential part of a modern hiring practice and should never be overlooked. I recently blogged about the case Lyons vs. Hubspot: A juicy example of what happens when culture fit is neglected. This simple mistake has caused a huge dent into Hubspot’s employer reputation and it could have been avoided simply by addressing the Hubspot culture match during the interview phase.

As I’m writing this post, Tori is hiring their first People & Culture Lead. Tori, officially SCM Suomi Oy is part of the global media company Schibsted. We have been working with Tori for a good few years now and share the view of the importance of building and hiring to the company culture.

As Tori uses Heebo Hiring App in their recruitment, the evaluation of the candidate culture fit has always been an integral part of their recruitment processes. Very often their job candidates give us feedback on how they have never quite experienced discussing and digging into the culture fit before, how important it actually is once you experience it. Furthermore, many of them add how good of an impression of Tori as an employer this has given them — regardless whether these candidates have ended up with an job offer from Tori or not.

Why culture fit is so important

The case Lyons vs. Hubspot explains blatantly why. It is like the best book case example ever of why culture fit is important. Things went so wrong at Hubspot, not because Lyons or not because of Hubspot but because these two parties were not compatible with each other. There was no culture match.

Cultural compatibility has a huge effect on a person’s ability and willingness to engage, commit and deliver in the job. Leadership is hard enough. I would not want to make it any more difficult by hiring talents who will not be able to deliver with happiness in my company.

Let’s first sync our thoughts on what company culture means to avoid getting lost in translation.

Company culture is:

  • The behavior, attitudes, values and beliefs in a group forming an organization
  • Ideally aligned with the business strategy (as only then it supports the execution of the strategy)

If you let company culture shape itself organically based on the values and behavioral expectations of the individual leaders in the company (which it will without guidance), there is a high risk of conflict between what is strategically necessary and how individual leaders prefer to lead. This, in turn, can lead to people not understanding the purpose of their work and actions in the bigger picture.

How to make culture tangible

Many people tell me culture cannot be described. I often hear “culture is something intangible, something you cannot touch.” I disagree. Let’s use Tori as an example and make their culture more tangible with the help of our Organizational Mapping Tool.

This (below) is a graphical presentation of Tori’s Company Culture based on the organizational culture model and four types of culture. Tori’s leadership mapped their culture with our tool. The results of their responses were put into a graphical presentation and this clip is part of that presentation.

Tori (SCM Suomi Oy Ltd) company culture as mapped with Heebo Organizational Culture Mapping app

When you look at Tori’s culture profile, there are a few noticeable things:

  • “Present” and “Future” lines are very close to each other. Their culture appears to be very solid. They are not planning to make changes to their strategic emphasis and not on their organizational culture.
  • Culture types Innovation, Human Expertise and Growth have the highest emphasis. Those areas are strategically important for Tori.
  • Control & Stability has a very low emphasis, and they see the emphasis decreasing in the foreseeable future.

Making Tori’s culture tangible

Basic lines in a diamond are not making the culture tangible. Let’s put what we here at Heebo know about Tori inside the box. Doing this exercise requires us to understand what these culture types mean so that we are able to recognize organizational behavior and place those in the right boxes.

Elements of the Innovation culture type at Tori

Let’s start with the innovation culture type, as Tori has place the most emphasis on that area. Innovation culture type places focus on the future needs of the market. It is a visionary culture and aims to create new value for the culture through disruption. We call it the überization culture type. Innovation culture is dynamic, on the go, it is constantly working towards solving the puzzle and delivering something remarkable to the market place. Here are some of the evidence from their daily lives, thinking and behavior that are very tangible elements of the innovation culture type.

1. “Reshaping the future”

If you thought Tori is just building an online marketplace for used goods, you could not be more wrong. They are actually überizing the traditional online advertising and turning it (and these are my words) into a very tailored customer service paid by companies (the advertisers) who are keen to recommend their offering as the solution for the user’s need. There is so much intellect behind their technology and vision it amazes me on a daily basis. But that’s not all. There is a bigger purpose behind this for the people of Tori. They are setting new standards for the sharing economy as their actions, activities and values are making recycling and hybrid consumption relevant, cool and media sexy.

2. “Perception of the organization on a journey”

Innovative companies like Tori have set their eyes firmly on the future; they have a vision for the future and they push relentlessly towards that vision. This puts them on a journey. Their vision is their destination. They continuously seek to understand the future in order to make it the today for their customers. Their daily work is characterized by a perception of being on a journey to the unknown where almost each leg of the race unravels a new learning opportunity. They work in pairs or in groups, they brainstorm a lot, they constantly seek for information, for evidence to back their vision up, and they share it with each other (this is Human Expertise culture behavior). When we typically evaluate our day based on what I achieved and got done today, people at Tori tend to evaluate their days based on what they learned each day and does that affect their perception of what they will do tomorrow.

3. “Lean start-up”

About one and a half years ago Tori started to transform the way they work according to the principles of the lean start-up methodology. At first it was more about forming teams to exercise lean start-up in extra tasks, but last summer (2015) they introduced what they call the “Koju-model”. Work now takes place in Kojus and each Koju has 2–3 key tasks at any given time to fully focus on. “Focus” is central in innovation culture. Innovating new takes so much time and effort you never get anywhere unless you are able to focus and stop doing anything that isn’t helping you forward. It’s actually really hard!

Each Koju is expected, encouraged and, if necessary, forced to drop anything else in order to finish the chosen 2–3 tasks. Simply dropping it. As in, if it is not important right now, it will not be dealt with. At all.

Furthermore, their calendars are no longer available for booking time for unwork. Unwork means for example meetings where you discuss what you should do after the meeting, but you never get it done because then there is the next meeting to discuss what to do after that. Instead, their calendars are now mainly occupied with sessions during which actual work takes place and gets done. Their calendars are reserved for real work.

Elements of the Human Expertise culture type at Tori

Human Expertise culture has two key areas of focus which both serve the same purpose: high level of competence and very strong team engagement. They serve the purpose of competitive value. Companies with high emphasis on this culture type have a competitive advantage on the market because of their people. Their people are extremely committed to the company and to each other, and have high levels of expertise which gives the company competitive value over others on the market. The people use this expertise in order to develop or offer services to the customers. High level of commitment to each other is very relevant as key to maintaining the expertise is based on not only hiring expensive experts but sharing the skills, knowledge and wisdom within the company with all people in order to build a very strong team of experts. Sharing what’s yours will not happen to people you have little commitment and trust with. That is why building a strong team engagement is integral in this culture type. This is not an individualistic culture type.

4. “Koju: the driving force for collaboration and self-autonomy”

The human expertise culture grants the experts in the company high levels of self-autonomy and creates an infrastructure where people often function in pairs or groups. Tori’s Koju-model is a great example of this. Tori has turned their organizational model upside down. Management forms the foundation, the infrastructure for the Kojus to operate on. There is none of the placing people permanently into boxes of roles and responsibilities and drawing connecting lines and arrows between boxes. Tori also bans everything that restricts freedom to operate and think. The people in a Koju truly work and form decisions together. They discuss until they find a consensus. We recently asked Tori’s marketing people to update their company information for us. They literally made it a Koju task and sat down to write the description together. What we got was a summary of all their perceptions of what to put into the text. You could not say who wrote it. They wrote it.

5. “Management has a mentoring and guiding role”

Tori is a highly people-driven company. Their culture is a testament to their high level of collaboration and continuous effort to learn and develop. At Tori, the management’s job is to make sure people know what the boundaries and main objectives of work are. Management responsibility is not to tell people how to do, but what the direction is. For the Koju’s to succeed, they need information to base their decisions on. It is the management job to make sure information flows and people have all the data and knowledge required for their decision making.

Management is available to mentor and guide people when asked, but they trust that the Kojus are able to make sound decisions between themselves. Tori management gives the Kojus the freedom to make decisions about how to best reach their objectives.

To give you another example of the real Tori life, Tori management uses Slack as an internal communication channel. Instead of the sender deciding to whom such and such information belongs by sending an email to a selected list of people, they place information into Slack and let people decide what information they want to follow and see as important for their work. This is a great example how management creates infrastructure for information flow.

Elements of the Growth culture type at Tori

Growth culture type supports growth strategy and is easy to comprehend. This culture type creates and supports organizational behavior that drives winning, success, sales, high market share, strong brand awareness, high customer satisfaction, mergers and acquisitions and so on. It is a very ambitious culture type and supports behavior that drive ambition and achievement orientation.

6. “Growth mindset”

Tori’s perception of growth is connected with their ambition of being the greatest online company in Europe (as part of Schibsted Media Group). To beat companies such as Facebook and Google (which they see as their competitors) requires from them to be ahead of the game, vision the future. Theirs is a culture connecting growth and innovation through high level of people commitment and special skills & knowledge. If this was only up to the skills and knowledge of the Tori management, the task would most likely be impossible. There would never be enough time for just a few people to set up a structure to support such a grand vision. But exercising a growth mindset in the whole organization gives them a much better arsenal for winning. For Tori, the growth mindset is not only about short term goals, but about the eagerness to continuously learn and become better, never resorting to the “what has always been done” excuse and exploring the paths and opportunities the universe offers anywhere and everywhere together.

7. “Winning in the market”

People often ask how Tori makes money since the marketplace is free to use. If you are an avid user of the Tori.fi marketplace, you have probably noticed how you don’t see a lot of advertising on the site. It is because Tori has developed an intelligent model of using your behavioral data and actions on the marketplace to understand what would most likely help you in your daily life. Instead of showing you random advertising, they present you with offers and information that is highly targeted to your needs and interests based on your previous actions on the Tori.fi market place. They gather a lot of data to understand better their users, and look for advertisers who can offer value for the users. In other words, (and this is again my personal interpretation) they are not really selling advertising randomly to any company. They use their user data in order to understand what the Tori users need, what could be of value for the users, and then they actively look for companies who offer such products and services, tailor advertising only between the offering party and the most likely benefiting party. Do you get what I mean? It’s so smart it amazes me on a daily basis!

Tori simply did not want to be in the business of traditional online marketing. They want to be in the business of empowering people in their daily lives and they are continuously innovating, learning and looking to better understand how they can do that through the Tori.fi marketplace.

For over a year now Tori has actively been building their sales model, sales channels and offering, and the results of their work have paid off. Last year their sales grew by 150 %. They want to win in their market, but not through quick fixes and a fast buck.

Elements of the Control & Stability culture type at Tori

And finally, the last culture type in which they are looking to decrease their emphasis on in the coming years. Control & Stability represents the organizational behavior we call the traditional way of leading companies. Management tells us what to do and we do. There is a lot of reporting and monitoring elements present in this culture type. Systems, processes and procedures guide and restrict the decision making and way of work. This culture type is connected to strategies of efficiency and cost saving. This is not a bad culture type at all. We just need to understand the purpose for organizational behavior that supports control and stability. In addition to efficiency and low costs, this culture type creates behavior that delivers smooth operations, high quality and little error.

8. “Streamlined operational systems”

In innovation culture, elements of control can very quickly kill the freedom of thinking. Tori tries to minimize all control to avoid this. This does not mean they have no reporting or no control, but it is safe to say that any operational system in place at Tori has a function, a purpose. All systems of control at Tori are there to support all the things you just read about above this last paragraph. In a lean organization, controlling system act as an infrastructure enabling the innovation, sharing of information and collaboration. Any new process or reporting function would need to be evaluated from these perspectives. If they cannot be justified, they cannot be executed. Tori does not welcome any form of control unless it is justified and supports the innovation, human expertise, team engagement and growth. If you look at the score Tori has on the control & stability, you see how low it is. This is a clear sign of Tori wants to keep the control structure to minimum. Streamline baby, streamline.

Here were 8 examples of Tori’s culture made tangible for you with the help of our Organizational Culture Mapping tool. If you managed to read all the way here, congratulations. You probably learned something valuable. Culture can be made tangible and it should. That’s the only way to understand how to create and support organizational behavior that helps create a purpose for the people and drive the mission of the company. This is the new century of HR. Welcome!