Monthly Archives: April 2013

Getting Face to Face with Culture

Five days a week I get up and prepare for 8+ hours in the office. I check my phone within seconds of my alarm going off. By the time I’ve brushed my teeth, ate my breakfast and gotten dressed for the day, I’ve likely responded to 5 emails and maybe 2 or 3 text messages. Shamefully, I’ll admit to looking at my phone during my drive. I rationalize it by only looking at the phone while at a stop light. Nobody’s perfect, so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t check it mid-drive. 

At work, even when in my office, I may look at my phone 150 times and not realize it. I’m always connected…always responding…always keeping busy. Saturday/Sunday are supposed to be family days. The same routine. I try to make as best use of the time as I can. When I do my household chores like mowing the lawn, weeding, mulching, painting, powerwashing, etc…I often listen to one of my favorite podcasts like Freakonomics Radio or the Ship Show. When I’m not playing with my kids, hanging out on the porch with my wife or playing golf, my absolute favorite past time now, you can find me on my Kindle or IPad reading Twitter feeds, TechCrunch articles or books on my active reading list. Usually I’m reading things that are relevant to work or golf or my kids. I’m using this time more wisely. Instead of doing work on the weekends and nights, I’m thinking about work opportunities and improvements during these times so I can be more effective when I’M ON at work, rather than making work always BE ON.

So where am I going with this blog? I’ve realized that I’m changing. The old Steve wouldn’t stop working. I wouldn’t stop to smell the roses from time to time to ask questions like “Are we having fun?”, “Are we improving?”, “Are we learning?” and most importantly “Are we providing value to our customers?”.

I’ve changed my behavior outside of work, sans email and texts, which I know I have to fix. Sometimes I put my phone on the floor of the passenger side so I don’t check email while driving. I still can answer calls thanks to bluetooth, but I’m a lot safer as well as those around me are safer because of it. I’ve realized I’ve had to change my behavior at work. I wanted to share a few of those things I’ve been doing…

First, I’ve realized that I’ve got a laptop, which means I’m portable. I’ve got the ability to work where ever…whenever. I try to work an hour a day somewhere other than my desk, but hopefully around others. It makes me wish that we didn’t have desks or offices, but rather big rooms with large communal tables. If only we had bean bag chairs and nooks built into the walls. Second, I’ve got to break bread with my teammates more. This week alone, I’ve eaten twice (it’s only Wednesday) with teammates. It’s a great feeling to get away from the desk to do this.

Third, if you ever have had a meeting with a pen, sticky notes and a wall…it’s quite engaging. I’ve had more meetings in the last 2 months with sticky notes, than the last 10 years combined. There truly is a power of stickies. Many of those meeting which might have been scheduled for 30 minutes went longer than scheduled. The key thing was that we didn’t look at the clock. We met until we were done being productive. Early on, I’ve had meetings that went 90 minutes over. Now I’m observing we are getting so productive, we finish meetings early.

The fourth and fifth points are of similar context. I find myself looking outside of my teams for new ideas. This includes other teams at my company, as well as talking with more technologists outside of my company. I’m more interested in picking someone’s brain face to face, rather than just reading an article or two and picking my own brain. Many of these conversations are mutualistic…it’s not just about me asking them questions, but sharing my own stories for them. The fifth point is I’m trying to get more people inside of my teams to share their own ideas. We try to have more ad hoc chats and idea sessions. We go for more walks one on one. We spend more time as groups at the board. We use stickies as I noted above.

All of these things are tackling culture head on, or at least I think they are trying to shape the culture of my teams and my organization. I’ve realized that culture isn’t about t-shirts, laptop stickers, happy hours…ping pong table (though we have one and enjoy playing). It’s not about some forced event where half of us are forced to share our thoughts and the other half sit quietly in the back…Culture is about who we are and how we want to act. It’s about our norms and values.