A company’s Vision and Mission define where your company is going. Values define how you get there - for example, "openness."
Defining your values becomes the foundation for your company culture, directing the decisions you make, and the people you hire.
When a company is small, the high degree of interaction between team members allows for efficient decisions without having values defined. But as a company starts to grow, communication and alignment around decision-making and hiring become increasingly challenging. Delegating responsibility becomes more difficult because you may lack the confidence that your employees will do things right.
Without common principles guiding decision making, a natural consequence is to implement top-down policies. The well-intentioned policies make it harder to attract and retain top talent that thrives on freedom and responsibility. In turn, it leads to lower performance and stricter top-down control.
Instead of developing top-down policies to manage performance, a single investment in carefully defining core values creates a platform for employees to make decisions more efficiently and autonomously.
A company that values openness empower engineers to make decisions and discuss with their lead only. If a company decide that they fundamentally value secrecy, engineers know not to waste energy trying to open-source code. Undefined values mean these questions need to be constantly reevaluated.
Startups often discuss the concept of "culture fit" when deciding who to hire. They will look beyond someone's individual performance and consider their impact on the rest of the team.
But, if the culture fit is undefined, at best it will lead to inconsistent hiring decisions, and at worst, "culture fit" may become a cover for unconscious biases to affect decision making. Without guidance, individuals may interpret "culture fit" as someone similar to them, leading to a less diverse team.
Values underpin your brand and public identity, impacting business partnerships, fundraising, and guiding your marketing and communications.
Written down values become a touchstone that every employee can speak to with less top-down oversight while empowering them to communicate with external parties more freely and authentically.
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