Culture is talked about constantly in our industry and I believe it’s fundamental to the success of a company. Workplace culture is the environment in which you work, be it the how people interact with each other or the expectations that are in place – sounds simple, but it can make or break how a team functions, and to what standard they perform. Given our work here at Media Suite spans multiple clients, there are going to be times where we work as a part of a new team – either augmenting a client’s existing team, or spinning up a whole new set of team members for a collaborative project. Being able to transplant culture in a way that makes this transition as seamless as possible, is an invaluable skill.
During my last couple of years at Media Suite I have spent a significant chunk of time away from our HQ, working on site with a client. During that time I was able to see the development and evolution of culture within this particular project. In this blog I’m going to outline some building blocks that that could make culture building and maintenance much easier to execute in an off site scenario.
Working out how to communicate – across teams, companies, people you don’t know. Depending on the nature of your team this can be a challenging exercise. Some might say that, ideally, you would have everyone in one place, so that people can have face-to-face interactions. The benefit is less lost context – a problem often associated with written communication where inflection and meaning is more difficult to derive. However, this is not always a feasible option and can also lead to more distractions – more people colocated in one place, more interruptions etc. It is important that communication is limited to as few channels as possible and that everyone is aware of the expectations around this. Written communication is effective and useful when we’re all on the same page.
Be prepared to embrace change. How your team starts working together is probably not how you will end up. It’s unlikely that you will come out of the blocks with a “perfect” workplace culture, you have to iterate on it and constantly develop it to a place where it works for as many members of your team as possible. Also, it’s important to remember that the quality of culture is subjective, so there is always room for improvement.
Change often means temporary instability. Whilst it’s important to welcome change, it’s also important to ensure that the change is actually valuable. You then need to try to reduce the adjustment period by being flexible and having a can-do attitude. In my recent experience, we had an initial breaking-in period that was somewhat challenging due to the client not being 100% ready for us to come on site full time. We were sitting two to a desk with no external monitors and we didn’t have the right people in the room – a daunting way to get going. But after a few weeks they managed to set up a new office, dedicated to the delivery team, which meant the team was all together and able to focus more on building the right thing.
Take your rituals with you, and find common ground. If there is something that you really valued about your previous environment then you should keep doing that. This could be work related, e.g. how you run Agile ceremonies if this is something you do, or this could be more personal, for example, MediaSuite values providing scope to allow us to work towards our learning goals. This might not be adopted exactly as you are used to, but you should work together to try and find a way to make it work in this new context.
Other workplaces/teams have great culture too, be prepared to learn from them and adopt their best bits. Everyone in the team will have had their own experiences of what works and what doesn’t and you have to ensure that you are prepared to take this on board.
Stay connected with your anchor point – the company whose culture you’re spreading. Drifting too far away can cause you to lose touch with what you’ve been trying to achieve and will make it challenging to bring it back. To do this we used to catch up with some of the team from Media Suite for lunch each month, or coming back to HQ for the odd Friday drinks.
Embrace diversity and find the things that create joy. Chances are you’re going to be spending a lot of time with the people in this team, so get to know them and *try* to enjoy their company.
The whole experience is about learning. Don’t be afraid to fail fast and fail often. Not everything you try will work as intended, but being able to figure out what is and isn’t working and picking up new skills to help you adapt will go a long way.
Technology is amazing. Using things such as Slack enables people to stay connected from anywhere in the world. It enables you to channel information to the right people, if used correctly, and it also allows you to ensure that channels aren’t cluttered and the content is relevant. Also, video calls are getting even better and with the right tech it can seem like you’re in the same room.
Keep an open mind. This is integral to this entire process. You need to be prepared to listen to the team and try new things to help work out the kinks.
Starting out with a new team can present challenges, but transplanting your own flavour of workplace culture doesn’t have to be hard if done correctly. There are lots of things that need to be considered, but developing a strong culture can be immensely beneficial in creating an environment where people want to work. Chances are, if people enjoy being at work then they will get more done. My one piece of advice would be: give it time, things might be challenging at the start but as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day.