The Method Method Of Creating And Nurturing Amazing Corporate Culture

Mon Sep 12, 2011
If a strong, inspiring corporate culture is greater than the sum of its parts, is it worthwhile–or even possible–to bother with the building blocks? In a Fast Company exclusive book excerpt, the founders of Method share how they kept their corporate culture vibrant as their business expanded exponentially.

Like the age-old riddle about silence–which expires the moment you say its name–culture defies cultivation. The latest HR theories can no more measure a company’s culture than an MRI can isolate an individual’s soul. No drab mission statement ever inspired anyone to put in extra hours on a side project, no weekend team-building exercise in the forest ever got executives and hourly workers to sit side by side at lunch on Monday, and the world has yet to see an employee handbook capable of boosting employee morale. The greater the effort to formalize it–to box it in with structure and guidelines–the faster culture slips away. Nevertheless, diligent HR pros devote dense manuals full of prescriptive theory to its creation, only to throw up their hands, exasperated, when it materializes spontaneously in the ranks of unassuming start-ups all around them. At Method, we understood that too much process would only be an impediment. The challenge was to institute process without suffocating culture–but how?

“Our challenge as a company was, how do you keep the magic alive?” says Rudy Becker, the resinator (aka engineering director). “It’s one thing to succeed when you’re small, but how do you keep all the good stuff while you grow? We knew what got us where we were and we didn’t want to lose that. If we did lose it, it would almost not be worth it anymore.”

In the midst of countless aimless discussions about how to fix Method’s culture, our big spender (or CFO), Andrea Freedman, had an epiphany. What if we were to establish a pod to build and maintain our culture–a kind of ministry of culture?

Take a moment to identify the best aspects of your life at work and imagine how a group of devoted caretakers might help those aspects flourish. If you’re still in the business-plan stage, make a list of all the qualities you envision in your ideal workplace and how you might encourage them on a day-to-day basis. Don’t worry too much about what’s practical at this stage–rather than an actionable plan, think of this as the ideal. The “Ministry of Culture” sounded great in theory, but we feared it would just be an HR department by another name. Meanwhile, if culture was by definition greater than the sum of its parts, was it worthwhile–or even possible–to bother with the building blocks?

Questions like this got us thinking. More rules and guidelines were the wrong thing when the company was young and growing. We were small. Our touch points were closer. You didn’t have to turn in a form for someone else to do something for you–you just walked over to the one person who did it. But as we grew and the company got bigger, we understood that some process might actually help free time and energy.

In search of how to introduce more process without smothering our culture, we consulted a handful of kindred spirits–companies we believe have built and maintained strong, organic cultures. After all, we’ve always been big believers in seeking inspiration from companies that do things better than we–be it consumer-facing stuff like branding and packaging or behind-the-scenes areas of expertise like R&D and distribution. So, we figured, why not ask others’ advice on culture?

In search of perspective, we approached six companies we knew and respected–Apple, Google, Pixar, Nike, Starbucks, and Innocent, the trendy British beverage maker–asking each of them one key question, “What really matters to you when it comes to great culture?” Unsurprisingly, the six had a lot to say. Taking it all down, we noticed three key themes common to all of them:

FOCUS ON HIRING GREAT PEOPLE Rather than hiring on expertise alone, make sure personalities and attitudes match your company. If you’re about to hire someone and your gut tells you they’re not a good fit, leave the seat open for now.

EMPHASIZE CULTURE FROM THE BEGINNING Explain the company’s culture to new hires, making it clear to them that they were hired in part because of how they fit in.

GIVE PEOPLE LOTS OF FEEDBACK Take the time on a regular basis to remind your employees how they’re doing vis-a-vis your values and culture. In addition, we noticed that all our kindred spirits encouraged their employees to embrace a sense of purpose at work. It was less a rule than a value, a shared belief that motivated everyone in his or her unique way. Reflecting on our own situation, we understood that our culture needed a set of values that clarified our purpose as a company.

This was the turning point. Though we’d never before defined our values, Method had always been a purpose-driven company. Purpose was one of our key competitive advantages–motivating us to work harder, longer, and smarter than our competition. Shared values and purpose inspired us. There was only thing left to do: articulate exactly what those were.

Combining our offsite notes with the suggestions we had gleaned from our culture idols, we recruited a handful of team members from various departments and asked them to work with our leadership team members to distill everything down to five core values. The team became known as the Values Pod.

Sure, we could have boiled everything down between the two of us, but we wanted our values to come from the bottom up. Years later, we discovered that companies like Zappos and Innocent had gone through the same process. (To say nothing of the founding fathers …) Consider the benefits. Drawing your values from the company ranks ensures that they will represent the richness of the brand, stay relevant at every level, and be embraced by employees year after year.

After incorporating input from every level of the company, our Values Pod presented us the final list:

• Keep Method weird.
• What would MacGyver do?
• Innovate, don’t imitate.
• Collaborate like crazy.
• Care.

Known collectively as our Methodology, these values have become the backbone of our culture obsession — a framework to provide our team members with direction and space to grow.

Our values help channel the frenetic atmosphere of innovation and quixotic spontaneity so vital to our success, into a mutual sense of purpose. To integrate them into our day-to-day operations and make them actionable, we’ve printed them on cards illustrating how each value translates into behavior. By creating an annual deck of cards bound by a key ring, rather than a standard sheet of paper, people can hang the values at their desks, and they are easier to share. Along with the right physical reinforcements–like our open-office floor plan–our values cultivate the kind of environment that inspires the real magic: those everyday individual actions that make our company flourish. Would our values work for you? Maybe. But adopting another company’s values is like letting someone else design your dream house or write your wedding vows. Establishing your values is your chance to turn yourself inside out and see what you’re really made of as a brand.

Excerpted from The Method Method by Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry by arrangement with Portfolio Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright © 2011 by Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry.

[Images courtesy Method]


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ANZ’s Cool Office Centre in Melbourne

November 30 2010

We are cautiously nursing a glimmer of hope that even the most corporate of the corporate world could start taking design seriously. And that they could really start understanding and taking advantage of the effects that great head-office design has on staff creativity, productivity and comfort; which, in turn, leads to either staff loyalty or revolving doors. And, most important, that all of this inevitably filters down to how the customers experience the company.

Some banks in Australia are giving us reason for this hope. We observed Macquarie investment bank’s new harbourside office building in Sydney some time ago.

We are now looking at the ANZ Centre in Melbourne’s Docklands and our hopes rise up further. Designed by Melbourne-basedHASSELL,  the massive “urban campus” occupies 130,000 square metres and is the location of the daily grind for 6,500 people.

The design centers around a common hub that on the ground level includes cafes, a visitor centre and public art. Throughout the campus, 44 individual hub spaces connect to quiet working zones.

The floor plan maximizes flexibility and daylight penetration, and fosters collaboration and varying work styles. About 55 percent of the work area is collaborative space and the remaining area is dedicated desk space.

HASSELL won the 2010 World Architecture Festival’s Interiors and Fitout of the Year award for ANZ Centre. The World Architecture Festival is an annual three-day event held in Barcelona where the Awards this year attracted a record 500 entries from 61 countries. – Tuija Seipell


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Ten Indicators of Morale Level and Employee Involvement


If you want to create an inclusive workplace where employees love to do their best work, and customers love to do business, you may need a culture change. I’m often asked by senior managers for a list of basic external indicators of how people feel about their organization, and whether or not they are happy at work. Based on my research and observations, here are ten easy to observe behaviors of employees who feel good about their workplace.

1.There is visible interaction amongst employees in the office, hallways, and cafeteria.People actually smile and say hello to each other. You may even hear laughter.

2.You hear people speaking well of each other and their customers. Employees greet customers and stop what they are doing to provide customer service.

3.There is resource sharing across work functions, and work groups are not complaining about other departments, or work levels.

4.Employees know what other functions do, on a day-to-day level, and how each function impacts the others.

5.Employee kitchens and washrooms are clean with the right provisions.

6.There are employee initiated social activities with high levels of participation.

7.Employees are comfortable offering suggestions for improvement.

8.Employee grievances are either non-existent, rare, or resolved quickly.

9. Employees arrive on time, and absenteeism, and turnover are low.

10.Employees support each other during personal or family crises, as well as celebrate accomplishments and happy events.

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Noor Al-Thani Going Big!

She is in her twenties and loves designing clothes and photography. Her favorite fashion icons are old Hollywood glamour figures like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Grace Kelly. This might sound like any other girl and you’ve probably assumed that she lives somewhere in the Western world, but she doesn’t.

Her name is Noor Al-Thani and she’s a Qatari that wears an ‘Abaya’ like most Middle Eastern women.

After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, Al-Thani became a fashion designer and was the first to be featured in a Rome fashion show. She has gotten a lot of international exposure and established business relations with several celebrities like Karl Lagerfeld, Anna Wintour, Blake Lively and Leighton Meester. Her idea started with launching a blog and later evolved to become “HauteMuse” a magazine and fashion event company.

Noor Al-Thani is grabbing an increasing stream of media spotlight, but mainly she’s sending an important message for Arab women. Noor is a role model; an entrepreneur who silences the voice of doubt in the minds of Arab women that are pursuing their dreams disregarding their stone aged cultural restrictions.

Start says, Empower women through Entrepreneurship!

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IF –

We want to share with you this poem, written by the famous poet Rudyard Kipling who was a pioneer in English Literature and also received the 1907 Noble Prize. He is best known for the fiction story Jungle Book, which we’ve all read as we were kids!

We hope you find this poem encouraging and inspiring! Enjoy!

IF –

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

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Google Former CEO Eric Schmidt, on how to run a company

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Why is Steve Jobs so important? “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” is his message!

What is now known as one of the best commencement addresses of all time:

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