Culture Upgrade: What Is, What Should Be, and What Must Be

Sig VanDamme, Founder
After completing the Scan Phase of NimbleUser’s Culture upgrade (where we surveyed the state of our current culture), the NimbleUser Culture Club team moved on to phase 2 of our WorkXO Genome Culture Upgrade – the DECODE Phase.  

NimbleUser Joins Community Brands – A Culture Wrinkle?
Shortly after the scan phase, NimbleUser was acquired by Community Brands. What affect would this have on our valued culture? Research on Community Brands showed that our culture and values are very closely aligned. Community Brand’s core values of commitment, innovation, pursuit of excellence, and diversity are already part and parcel of the NimbleUser cultural DNA.

Reinforce or Fix?
The primary output of the DECODE phase is to draft a set of Culture Upgrade priorities that identify the very specific aspects of our culture that:

  1. Are working (i.e., support the success of NimbleUser) and need to be reinforced.
  2. Are out of alignment (stuff that is getting in the way of us moving forward) that need to be fixed. These are the things that if we were King or Queen for the day we would go about fixing.  

Our Findings
Through a series of orchestrated exercises that took about 4 hours (long but very productive time), we dove into determining what the current state of the culture is, and what it should be in the future to drive success within the organization.


What Is Our Culture?
During the first exercise to help us explore what our current culture is, the team highlighted things in the Workplace Genome results that surprised them, concerned them, or sparked energy within them.

There was a high level of agreement within the team that our culture was a key piece of what makes NimbleUser a great place to work. Here are a few of our findings in these categories:

  1. Surprise: Our culture is not adequately directed. Our culture has grown organically over 25 years and a good portion of the team felt that it needed to be directed more toward what will make the organization successful.
  2. Concern: Our culture was somewhat dependent on the eye of the beholder. While everyone sees everything slightly differently, there were some cultural markers that had clear differences in interpretations between different demographics. For example, views on transparency differed greatly between managers and non-managers, and our sales and services teams had differing views on collaboration.
  3. Energy: The team felt that the workplace flexibility our culture affords, and our adoption of agile methodologies (even our marketing team uses agile) really fuels energy within our team


What Should Our Culture Be?
In the second exercise, we took a deeper dive into what NimbleUser’s success drivers are, and here are a few of our findings:

  1. Surprise: Accountability within teams could be better, and we need to have a better balance between constructive criticism and NimbleUser kindness.
  2. Concern: Agile is critical to our nimbleness and innovation, but different departments (product, services and marketing) were all using slightly different versions of agile. For example, the product team uses story points and the marketing team uses hours to measure level of effort. As a team, we concluded that, while a concern initially, it was really ok to make some changes to the process to meet the needs of the team.
  3. Energy: The trust and client relationships we have fostered bring energy to the team on a daily basis.  

What Must Our Culture Be?
The third exercise was to match our current culture with our perfect future state that will drive NimbleUser’s success in the future. Our findings:

  1. Surprise: Our culture needs to be more directed. Culture is ultimately about what is valued. We need to really look at our core values, and likely make some changes to those that do not actually guide our team into making choices about their workplace behavior. For example, our first core value is “Exceed Expectations”, which may be a valid team aspiration, but provides little direction.
  2. Concern: Our team needs a better vision of what the future of NimbleUser really looks like. In agile terms, we need a better Definition of Done. In conjunction with this, each member of the NimbleUser team needs to know their role in this vision. 
  3. Energy: Fostering joy and pride in our work drives innovation and motivation here, and it needs to be an ongoing cultural priority.  

Next Up – UPGRADE!
Up next, the NimbleUser culture club will take on the UPGRADE phase. This phase is all about finalizing the Culture Playbook and mapping out implementation of plays. Some of these plays will be defensive, meaning they shore up the cultural principles that matter the most; and some will be offensive, meaning they identify plans for meaningful change better suited to our evolving business environment. 

The Playbook can contain low hanging fruit, meaningful improvements, and big ideas for long term change – based on our needs. The implementation of the plays will result in the outcomes our team desires: deeper relationships with our customers, more innovation, a happier and more productive (and dare we say, nimble) team.

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