To foster alignment there must be a healthy company culture that attracts the right people and allows them to work at their highest level of performance.
To accomplish this, we believe in:
- Publishing our company’s tenets: values, mission, vision and methods of operation.
- Setting performance standards.
- Recruiting people to match our high standards.
- Ensuring that all associates understand and commit to the tenets and standards.
- Encouraging individuals to develop their individual performance action plans.
- Measuring individual progress toward these commitments.
- Recognizing individual and team success.
- Terminating underachieving associates or ones who are not aligned with our philosophies.
Here are some examples of how our philosophies helped build our culture:
When our agency was less than 20 people and we divided that group into client-based, self-directed teams, there was natural resistance because all of us had been conditioned by traditional department-oriented backgrounds to believe that each discipline should have a director responsible for the work in that department.
As we grew to have multiple art director/writer teams, there was pressure to have a creative director. (The same was true in the other disciplines at the agency.) However, we were adamant about using our more experienced associates as coaches to help inspire and guide, but leaving the final decisions and responsibility with the teams. As CEO, I was under constant pressure to revert to the old "department/director" model.
That pressure has now disappeared. The number of associates has grown dramatically and our success has proven the model as valid. The culture is now strong enough to attract people to us because of our "no departments" philosophy. When our new people's previous conditioning influences them to revert to the old ways, the people around them provide peer pressure to bring them back into alignment.
For example: if someone is not subjecting their work-in-progress to the feedback of associates – whether it be on their team or agency-wide – it’s their peers who most often remind them. That's the power of the culture bringing them into alignment. It's typically just a matter of helping them to remember, not one of convincing them of the values they committed to when they came aboard.
A basic tenet of our mission – a healthy working environment – is supported by the premise that open, honest and timely communications will solve most problems. Our constant vigilance to uphold this tenet, combined with our selective hiring processes, and a flat (non-political) organizational model, has helped create an agency that people inside and outside regard as a group of loving and caring individuals. Now, because that's become an important part of our company personality, when anyone exhibits behavior outside the norm, they feel the peer pressure to re-examine their actions and come into alignment with the company culture.