One of the things that became very apparent to me while putting together my last company was the idea that documenting culture was how you identified and refined the organization’s culture.
In other words, if one is to organically “build” culture then it’s actually better to simply observe what is already happening and then document those things (or codify) so that others can ratify and improve on them.
This is why I believe that much of the culture that an organization has are simply the very things that are already happening, the actions that you and your team are doing, exhibiting, living, and breathing day-in and day-out.
There’s no need, especially in the beginning, to manufacture culture – it’s already happening and being built in real-time. The leader’s job, therefore, is to document them, observe, and codify them so that everyone can become literal champions of those things, especially as you begin to hire and scale the business.
When everyone else is trying to “develop” great culture I believe that those things are already happening and that the culture can’t really be created since it’s essentially already happened.
What’s nice about this model as well is that if culture is truly fluid and malleable then so is your process(es) – you can add, subtract, and completely eliminate or rebuild and retool as much as you’d like, especially as the team changes over time.
There are no “sacred cows” when it comes to process because it’s based on the people, the team, the overall staff, and the leadership. As those things change your culture changes. As your culture changes so does process.
Sure, there should probably be a few things that are uncompromisable but those things are obvious – things like integrity, honesty, and transparency. An organization should never have to have those as explicit value statements as no organization worth its salt should be without them.
And we all know what it’s like when those things aren’t really in play.
Process is documented culture, especially in the startup phase. The challenge of any growing organization is to make sure that the team takes the time to document their (changing) culture consistently – most organizations forget to do that.