Several days ago I stumbled upon a post on reddit titled:
When I was hired by Apple in early 2004, these ‘rules for success’ were attached to the back of my employee badge. I left Apple years ago, but these really stuck with me ever since.
I am not sure if those rules were only applied for only a small division or the company as a whole at that time. All I can say is that I am deeply impressed that a former employee is still inspired by these rules (and values) that he experienced when joining the company — even years after leaving said company. This is something one dreams of achieving — building a culture with values that people strive to live by, even after departing.
The image of the badge, the rules written on it, and the sentiment of the former employee are only a small testament of all the pieces that put together formed the company culture at Apple in 2004 — three years after the first iPod was released. According to a user comment senior management member John “JB” Brandon, to whom the rules seem to be attributed to, was very involved in forming a very special company culture at Apple during that time. From this glimpse alone it is really difficult to paint a full picture of the company culture at apple — and better not get into a pro/contra Apple discussion.
Luckily there are countless more examples available to anyone who is interested. One of my personal all-time favorites by far is Zappos company culture, which is captured in broad detail in CEO Tony Hsiehs book Delivering Happiness. Also worth mentioning is Valves epic handbook for new employees (PDF). Many more examples of company culture manifestos and employee handbooks can be found online (e.g. Valve, Motley Fool, Disqus, Zappos, Netflix, Nordstrom).
If this is a topic you want to learn more about, I recommend you to also read Freedom Inc. A book focusing on corporate liberation and liberating leaders. You’ll find the general theme and many elements interwoven in almost all aforementioned company stories and documents. Essentially it is not just the urge to give people more freedom and individual responsibility, but the fostering of a liberated why, instead of the outdated how culture. An awareness that we are also instilling in our team at kpibench.
It is true that company founders (respectively company management) have great influence on a company’s culture. But only in that if they don’t live by it, no one else will. A founder cannot put values on a wall and proclaim them as inherent truth. Values come from within the team and are developed over time. In that sense, everyone shares the same responsibility equally — for contributing in forming (and keeping) a sound company culture. Everyone is a role-model for their peers.
One of my most loved duties as company founder is — whenever it presents itself — to meticulously document our team’s DNA in our internal company wiki. Today we are proud to publicly share our values for the first time.
kpibench company DNA
The following is the first public attestation of the ever evolving cultural values at kpibench.
Our guiding principles
We are happy
This is our challenge and we own it. To create something that has impact put all your knowledge, ideas and energy into it.
We are happy because we choose our destiny ourselves.
We are lucky
You can’t force luck but you sure can prepare for it. Keep an open mind and don’t succumb to bad habits. Consistently discover.
We are lucky because we create the right conditions for it.
We are successful
Taking on ambitious challenges can from time to time be perceived as a wild roller coaster ride. The key is perseverance. Let’s enjoy the ride!
We are successful because we are persistent and deliver constantly.
We are humble
There is a right time to brag and show off. Most of the time it isn’t. We are proud of what we do. Yet we keep a cool head and are grateful.
We are humble and prefer others to tell the world how great we are.
What one can expect from their peers
We strive to be as open and transparent as possible and we despise hypocrisy. Expect very direct but respectful feedback. Learn to embrace short term friction in favor of long term drama.
We deliberately chose you to be part of our team. We fully trust you to make the right calls in your responsibilities. You can count on constructive sparring, but in the end you are the one calling your shots.
We trust you to use common sense and common courtesy when making decisions. Just try to go with the golden rule and be considerate in general.
We aim higher as we might initially strike, because even hitting lower once in awhile leads us to new insights and brings us closer to our goals. Those who at least try never have to look back and wonder what could have been.
Our company and product will be known for
We have an inner urge to make complex things as easy as possible. We go the extra mile to create the best possible user experience. In software and processes.
“Ship often, ship fast” is our mantra. That does not mean we have to give up on quality. On the contrary: we continuously and thoroughly improve all shortcomings we encounter.
We never stop playing and learning. We have a commitment to continuously challenge ourselves. We are confident in destructing old patterns to create innovation.
We cannot preach to our customers what we do not live ourselves. We are perfectionists at heart but we know where to draw the line to actually deliver results.
As we are still at the very beginning of our adventurous endeavour — help us discover and learn from other approaches. What company value manifest do you recommend reading? What is your team’s most precious DNA trait?