Last week I had a conversation with a couple of friends about the issues they’ve been facing at their startup. These friends, like many others, have been affected by CoViD-19 related business impact, as well as the Work From Home situation.
As you can guess, their biggest issues have been around team communication, specially when it involves some sort of negotiation about what product features to prioritise, and how much effort to put into the same.
As we continued talking, it occurred to me to ask, whether they had ever discussed their company culture, or guiding principles about how they work together. In other words, what were their collaboration norms, before the CoViD-19 related lockdowns?
Theirs is a very young startup, dealing with the initial frenzy of building up the product, backed by their first angel check, and never quite had the chance to really discuss much else. The team was working well together, until people had to be furloughed, some even laid off, and face time became rare due to WFH rules.
In other words, team culture and communication was never a topic to talk about, until it became a crisis to deal with.
They’re not an exception. Many companies never really talk about culture, and when they do, they often end up creating a set of slogans, rather than something their people can really abide by and experience on a daily basis. If you have witnessed such exercises, you might also have seen employees joking about the meaning (or lack thereof) of those “value phrases”.
Having recently started epek.app, I have a huge personal interest in not falling into the same trap as most startups, and keeping our values simple but actionable.
So what can you really do? If you don’t want to spend too much time to figure out what your guiding principles and values are; and how they impact your company and product culture…
I propose, quite simply, “Better Everyday” as the one and only value you need to get going. You will probably not need anything else for quite some time if you stick to this one with some degree of discipline.
Better Everyday, what?!
I can see you wondering, wtf does “Better Everyday” mean? I hope you can see me smiling, and saying “Exactly.”.
Because, what “Better Everyday” means will change from day to day, from product to product, from engineering to HR, and industry to industry.
It is precisely why, when you espouse this #value, you will start questioning the small things in your control and start living this value rather than following a formula set by someone else.
I contend that as a participant in your venture, whether as the CEO or the intern, you have a role to play, and you have earned your right to contribute and grow this venture. And that you are smart enough to figure out the little things that will make everything better (every single day).
What about product?
Imagine building a product, following Scrum, with all the refinements, planning, reviews, and retrospectives… The methodology provides very clear guidelines on how to go about creating value for your customers on a regular cadence already. So what could you do to make it “Better Everyday”?
Could you do your stand-up checkins better?
Could you prepare better for the retrospectives?
Could you establish coding practices that reduce wasted turnaround time between code reviews or testing rounds?
Could you prep that zoom meeting better?
Think about it. You know all the things that could be improved. You have the choice to do nothing now and deal with a crisis later; or start doing something to make it all better everyday.
“Better Everyday” is a simple rule, that although doesn’t say much, contains within it the power to transform what you do, how you do it, and what you get out of it.
Give it a try, and hit me up if you have questions, comments, or other ideas ;)