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Is your culture built to scale?

When it comes to differentiating between 'growing' and 'scaling', I like how Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn co-founder and podcast host of Masters of Scale) puts it: "So when we talk about scaling a business, we're not just talking about growing it. We're talking about improving its ability to handle growth." So when it comes to scaling culture, it's about intentionally putting in place the people processes, practices and systems that will underpin growth. I like to call these the building blocks. But before you can do that, it's important to get crystal clear on the culture you want and how it will enable you to execute your strategy. This means you need to define your desired culture and cultural values explicitly. One of the best examples of this is the culture deck Netflix created. You don't necessarily need to go this depth, but it's a great source of inspiration. Once you have this, you need to infuse your cultural values into your business through your building blocks. If you're looking at scaling your culture, there are five building blocks you have to get right:

  • How you recruit great people that add to your culture - building a winning culture is much easier when you consistently hire the right people. Assessing how someone will contribute to your culture should be a critical part of your hiring process. Likewise, the process and tools you use should align with your culture and values. If 'Collaboration' is one of your values, the recruitment process can't be a one-way interrogation at every stage. Otherwise, you won't attract the type of people you want.

  • How do you onboard people - a repeatable and reliable onboarding process not only means people quickly get up to speed from a performance perspective, but it also helps new hires to understand your values, culture and ways of working. Take care to connect new hires to the wider business too. If onboarding doesn't have a degree of intra-team connectivity to it, it becomes a process that perpetuates silos, and this can cause friction in your business down the track.

  • Your goal-setting rhythm - a good goal-setting rhythm breaks down your long-term/annual goals into short-term quarterly goals. To enable a scaling culture, it's key that the goal-setting process isn't too arduous or bureaucratic. So your process needs to be bi-directional (teams/individuals have control over setting their own goals), and there needs to be fluidity in the system to allow for goals to adapt based on changes in the context and environment.

  • People leaders coaching rhythm - your people leaders should create regular time and space to connect with each team member in a structured and informal way. The two fundamental practices here are weekly/fortnightly 1-on-1s and quarterly career development conversations. Anyone with people leadership responsibility needs to carve out the necessary time for these conversations. If a people leader can't commit to this, it's a sign that their team is too large, or some systemic business issues exist, or that people leadership just isn't right for them.

  • Your communication and meeting rhythm - as your culture grows, it becomes difficult to keep everyone updated. Key messages can easily get lost when you get past the 'shout around the office' phase. At the same time, too many bad meetings are a real drain on productivity and engagement. A good communication rhythm is key here. This is to clarify what needs to be communicated, when it needs to be communicated, and how. Meetings are a part of this mix but should only be used when people genuinely need to connect, collaborate, create and celebrate together. Wider scale approaches like Town Halls work well, but they still need to be run in an interactive and engaging way. And for the asynchronous channels like e-mail, Slack, Teams etc., some guidelines and tips for effective use can go a long way to reducing the noise.

I personally love seeing the impact of getting these building blocks right. You see the friction and noise reduced in a business, creating greater clarity, focus, and headspace for innovation and growth. Happy scaling, Viren


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