Friday, January 11, 2013

Yup, Culture Is Usually the Real Culprit!

It has already been a great year so far.  Many blessings on the family front have kept pace with new intellectual pursuits and personal growth opportunities, all resulting in a flurry of 24/7 excitement and activity around my neck of the woods.

Amongst all that excitement, I still couldn't help but take special personal delight in reading Brad Garlinghouse's recent post on LinkedIn, "What I got wrong in the Peanut Butter Manifesto". Brad, a visionary ex-Yahoo executive wrote the now-legendary "Peanut Butter Manifesto" six years ago, a leaked internal memo in which he pointed out "lack of focus, accountability and decisiveness" as Yahoo's critical problems at that point. He aptly prophesied Yahoo's talent exodus and steady subsequent decline in relevance in the world (until Marissa Mayer).

Now, with the benefit of hindsight and reflecting on his role as the chief executive of YouSendIt, Brad has a revised perspective. Namely, he is now convinced that the problems he pointed at Yahoo were mostly symptoms of a much deeper ailment, one that we could summarize as lack of an entrepreneurial culture:
[Yahoo's] core culture no longer encouraged and celebrated innovation with the same zest and ardent ambition to change the world—too often this had been displaced by half-hearted maintenance of the status quo.

...Great products don’t come out of thin air. They are an outcome of environments where innovation can thrive and talented people are encouraged to be bold.

Sure, one-hit wonders can happen anywhere, but companies that stand the test of time all recognize a fundamental truth: great people build great products and great people gravitate towards great company cultures. The startup culture that Steve Jobs created at Apple to transform a declining computer manufacturer into the creator of era-defining products is an obvious example.

...If a business has to be told that it needs more focus, accountability and decisiveness, there is a bigger problem at hand. Truly successful businesses encourage these qualities innately by creating and fostering a culture that inspires each individual to perform at their peak and rewards passion and results without peanut buttering the end of year bonus.
As I had previously written, the right culture within your organization serves as a success accelerant. The existence of an innovative entreprepeneurial culture is as electrifyingly palpable as its lack is stultifying and stale. But it does not come about by accident. It requires deliberate, relentless acts by the founding team. And it leaves its fingerprint throughout the organization, from the arrangement of desks, to employment policies, perks and benefits, allowed play time, hours worked, mission statement, and even the actual product(s) produced.

As founders, what are some of the things you do to maintain the entrepeneurial culture within your startup? How has that culture helped you achieve your goals?

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