Live These 5 Cultural Values to Scale Your Startup's Growth
Diversity and agility are much more than buzzwords. Read on to learn how these and other values can drive real results.
When it comes to tech-company culture, it can be easy to reference stereotypical, even cliché benefits: pool and ping-pong tables, catered lunches and open, artistic work spaces. While employee perks can improve the workday experience and serve as a recruitment tool, they shouldn't be confused with culture.
Company culture is an intangible but intentional set of values. Culture defines how a team works together to reach a shared vision. Its ability to empower and motivate your teams makes it one of the most crucial elements to help you scale growth.
Here are five cultural traits that enable and support excellence on high-performing tech teams.
1. They fail early and often.
Biologically, making mistakes comes with a unique set of benefits. A number of studies have found that failure and the subsequent learning process mature the brain, resulting in neurological growth. On an organizational level, this consequence is amplified. Failure-positive culture encourages transparency and allows employees to embrace creativity, explore new ideas and ultimately take risks that disrupt your market. That's just the kind of behavior that sets you apart from the competition.
On the other hand, a culture steeped in fear of failure squelches innovation, leading to second-rate products and unfulfilled teams. If you truly want to empower your teams to succeed, let them fail first.
2. They put the user first.
The best tech companies maintain an organization-wide focus on user experience. This commitment to the end customer must be deeply ingrained in daily operations. It also needs to take place at every step of the product lifecycle -- while designers are wireframing UIs, while project managers are writing JIRA tickets, while developers are strategizing functionalities. In each phase, team members should make decisions based on the wants and needs of the users they'll ultimately serve.
Tech teams obsess over the customer and approach work from this very perspective. That philosophy spreads as tech teams inherently support sales, customer-retention efforts and overall business growth.
3. They practice agile project management.
To earn market share and position themselves as industry leaders, modern tech companies need to work quickly -- and those processes are best powered by agile practices. Agile project management fosters collaboration, addresses failure or change early on and facilitates speedy deployments. In contrast, teams that work within a traditional waterfall framework will spend too much time in silos, tweaking features that inevitably will change or fail.
4. They decentralize decision-making.
There are good reasons traditional top-down organizational hierarchies are becoming less and less common. Distributing these responsibilities helps alleviate some of the burden that most executive-level leaders experience. Decentralized hierarchies also give employees a sense of autonomy and fulfillment that makes better use of their expertise and skills. If you're still signing off on noncritical decisions, you might be under utilizing your most precious resource: your human talent.
5. They support diversity and inclusion.
The tech industry and the country as a whole are making strides toward more inclusive workplaces. This is the right thing to do, and it also makes business sense. Teams that are both demographically diverse (gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation) and experientially diverse (socio-economic status, areas of specialty, levels of expertise) create breeding grounds for innovation.
One study found diverse leadership teams out-innovate other companies and are 70 percent more likely than a less-diverse competitor to capture a new market. With evidence like that, you can't afford not to invest in diversifying your team.
As you're cultivating your company culture, remember that while workplace fun can be a great recruitment tool, true tech leaders are made by fostering high-performing values. It starts at the top. Consider how you and your leadership team can create a trickle-down effect and inspire excellence by living these values. When you do, you'll set the tone for your entire organization.
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