A Small Core

Since I’m in the middle of a significant restructuring and refocusing as a team, I’ve spent a little time getting feedback, support, and even a bit of coaching on how to do it well without fucking the culture — I wish there was an easy way to do all of “this” but there isn’t.

Oh Michael Fassbender…

But, big things have small beginnings and a recent long-form article on Goldman Sachs new-ish CEO, David Solomon, was educational as well as insightful. I love this:

When Solomon became CEO, Friedman advised him to preserve a “small core” of cultural values, but that “everything else has to be subject to change.”

Solomon has led by that creed. In March, he tore up the firm’s age-old dress code, a 35-page dossier with outdated stipulations about suits, ties, and shoe color.

And this summer, Goldman quietly eliminated drug testing from its employee background checks. Gone, too, is the blanket ban on taking photos inside the office, once enforced by building security guards; Solomon now frequently posts such pics to his Instagram account.

“The organization has a lot of bureaucracy I’d like to simplify,” says Solomon (though he doesn’t take credit for changing the drug or photo policies).

“I think we can do some work to be more admired and respected, and a little less envied and feared.”

via Fortune

These seemingly-small decisions (small things matter) can be the very thing that begins to set the course for a new season and can help “jolt” people into the new reality.

It’s insane to think that Goldman would even still have a dress code but that only shows the staying power of culture — once you cement it, either by written word or behavior, it’s very hard to change.

I feel this way right now as we’re rethinking everything; what is absolutely essential to our survival and what is going to help us achieve maximum outcomes while we still have time?

When I first publicly penned my startup’s values back in June of this year I was confident about two of them being fundamental but was still “trying on” the other two — I knew that values only become real if they are actually lived-out on the regular.

This is a big reason why I’ve moved from calling them values to operating virtues — I took this directly from Horowitz’ new book.

Effectively, I outlined two virtues that, during this particular time, were the only ones that mattered:

  1. Table all the Things (#TatT)
  2. Speed of Decision Making (#SoDM)

Combined, these two virtues operate together and our manifest behavior is simple and easy to identify: Everyone should have access to all the information they need to make the best and most informed decision possible, as quickly as possible. The requires that we share what we know, when we know it, without delay.

And that’s it.

As a company (and as leaders) we are either information rich or information poor — we either have the data we need to make a decision or we don’t. Everything else is inconsequential; the other values / virtues are luxuries that we can afford during “peacetime” — I can’t wait to get back to that (temporary) season.

A massive container ship.

The “small core” is not just virtues, but it’s also people too. I’ve had to let go of a number of my technical team so that we can become a speedboat instead of container ship — we need to go as fast as humanly possible if we’re going to make it out alive.

This is, without question, the worst part of my job… I’ll just leave it at that.

If you’re going to change the business then you have to change the culture, full stop. And it’s not just what you say and what you do — it’s who you are as a team. The fundamental makeup of the team has to change and if your team isn’t self-aware enough to adjust on its on, then, the leader will have to step in and do it for them.

That’s the cost of doing business, the cost of trying to survive. Sacrificing the one for the many is never pleasant and, in general, it’s not a preferred course of action. But, that’s the hard thing about hard things.

Find your “small core” and then go fucking slay.