Organizational Culture is a popular and fascinating topic. In a trend popularized by Netflix, companies are publishing culture decks for themselves and to share with the world. Some even credit Netflix’s Culture Deck as being “the most important document in Silicon Valley.” One could argue that corporate culture is the master key for a company’s growth and success. We hear it all the time from people working for startups: “Corporate culture is the answer to many problems in a company.” But what is organizational culture? How should we view it?
We believe that organizational culture is vital in the smartphones and digital age. In the past, a company needed land, capital, and capable people to make a good product. Now, all anyone needs to start a company are good ideas, talented people, and a good culture. The emergence of the millennial generation and the development of anonymous channels such as Glassdoors also played a crucial role in these trends.
Organizational culture is an important factor for people deciding whether or not to join a company. As a result, companies are improving their working environment to boost their retention and manpower—offering various benefits like free lunches, long vacations, casual dress codes and so on. These perks, while nice, are cop-outs and often inconsistent with the company’s own philosophy. In addition, culture decks across companies are beginning to look similar, which is ironic being that culture decks are meant to distinguish companies from one another. These similarities in now generic company culture do not excuse corporations’ copying one another. Culture is like air and water. You can’t see it or hide it. If a company tries to hide a bad culture or treat its members poorly, there will always be someone who will expose it online. So a healthy culture has to be encouraged properly.
Why did Buzzvil make a culture book?
We didn’t make one for the marketing value or because everybody else has one—our culture book serves the purpose of optimizing how Buzzvil runs. We could have called the document that contains our philosophy, mission, vision, and core values just about anything. We decided to call it our culture book. A culture book is a collection of documented values that, when well-aligned, help define a company’s culture.
In order for the culture deck to hold any merit, we have to minimize the disparity between how we present ourselves on paper and how we really are day-to-day. We could list up generic and undeniably great values like respect or honesty, but these broad terms don’t always lead a company to success.
In 2014, Buzzvil was doing really well. Softbank had just invested a large sum in our company, and we continued to grow in South Korea and Japan. In order to further our growth, the company branched into a new market, and half of our team boarded a plane for the United States. They were so eager to take over Silicon Valley and stayed together in a camp. To our surprise, they came back home after just four months with not much accomplished. What went wrong?
The main problem was the lack of synergy. Despite being at the top of their respective fields, they didn’t know each other well, and no one could explain what type of organization Buzzvil was.
After re-evaluating Buzzvil’s position as a company looking to expand globally, the team decided to write the culture book. They understood the importance of building a ‘corporate culture’ that would sustain our company in the face of any challenges. Looking back, creating a culture book was a major milestone for the company.
The book took weeks to put together, and during that time, each corporate value was added to the culture book aimed at making a stronger team. Based on our updated philosophy, the company designed a critical recruiting system. The company values were enforced and reflected in Buzzvillians’ performance evaluations.
The culture book does not bring short-term benefits to the company. There are many companies that have no culture deck, yet make millions. But in a crisis situation, a company needs to be able to rely on its integrity—its corporate values and philosophies—to keep its heart beating. Having corporate values means better teamwork and members who understand where the company stands in any situation. Our culture book was the start of creating a strong organization, and it helped us stay together during the Google Play policy change issue in early 2018.
Our third culture book
After being through so much, Buzzvil announced its third edition of the culture book with our new vision, mission, and values, which were revised versions of the ones announced earlier this year. Over a course of three months, the company garnered Buzzvillians’ opinions through surveys and one-on-one’s with the CEOs. The CEOs also answered all questions and held retreats with leaders. The new vision and mission are as follows:
Mission: Grow Together to Change the World
Vision: Spread Rewards, Spark Engagement
The mission is our compass, the vision is our map, and the core values are our provisions on Buzzvil’s journey to success. Buzzvil attempted to revise our core values to make more sense and be more achievable. We organized workshops for members and leaders to get everyone on the same page. At these programs, people were asked, “In your opinion, what core values do you think Buzzvil considered most important?” Most people voted autonomy, communication, growth, and grit. It was no coincidence because these values were what the company has based its culture, policy, and benefits on.
Below are three things we learned while renewing the culture book for the third time:
- Buzzvilian’s must spend 10 percent of the time on production and 90 percent on communication. You should put more effort into the process rather than the results. How relatable we make the culture book is more important than how well we design it. Only by communicating can we achieve a culture book that makes sense for everyone.
- The CEO has to be confident about the culture book and set the standard for how it should be followed. The CEOs’ willingness to abide by a company’s values is what legitimizes these values and brings everyone together.
- We must constantly revise and update our culture. A great company will try to remember what’s important and nurture its values in any circumstance. Just because our culture book has been written and published does not mean it’s completed. Our diligence and our culture’s continuous development are what matter most.