Once upon a time - when the Joyous team was about half the size it is now - we had a bit of a brainstorm and drew up the first set of Joyous values. We grouped our ideas together into themes and gave them catchy titles. We made posters.
These values: Go Live, Be Lovable, Learn Fast and Seek Truth have helped shape the company’s early growth. But as we’ve added more departments, more people, more countries and more customers, our culture and way of working has evolved. So at the start of this year we decided it was time to take another look at our values. Do they still represent Joyous? Are they still how we want to act and who we want to be? And if not, what should we change to set us up for success beyond 2020?
We like to run company development activities as a team. Usually on a Friday afternoon, mostly while eating.
For this session we followed a hybrid framework. We knew that at some point we’d be looking at the existing values, but we didn’t want to limit ourselves to just tweaking what we already had. And we didn’t want to pick and choose from someone else’s idea of what companies should find important, so we blazed our own trail on this one.
Here’s the framework we came up with. Everyone was invited to contribute in three ways.
- Tell a story that represents our culture: what’s something that happened during their time at Joyous that stood out for them?
- What are 5 things they think are unique / special about working here?
- What are 3 things they think Joyous isn’t? These weren’t intended to be part of our values, but were documented to help us sense check what we’re doing.
We then discussed all the contributions and grouped the feedback into themes. While we didn’t start with ‘does xyz value still fit?’ we thought it was important to consider the current values in the course of this exercise. Turns out we actually had a bit of overlap...
New value themes
We came up with a few rough groups of feedback:
- Loving / valuing each other
- Action oriented, ambitious, curious
Which we then combined into four values. It took us a bit of back and forth to get the names right (or right enough!) but here’s what we ended up with.
(We were also working through the rebrand at the time, so it’s kind of a package deal.)
Be excellent to each other
We are a community that cares for each other. We embrace our differences and value our unique perspectives. We bring our best selves to work, make everyone feel welcome, and celebrate our successes as a team.
This one’s about loving and valuing each other, and building positive relationships. It extends out to our communities: investors, customers, networks, prospective hires, alumni etc. Similar to Be Lovable, but more focused on community building and less on individual lovability.
We’re always open to new ideas and new ways of working. Joyous is a safe place for everyone to be curious, to experiment, to share knowledge and collaborate across teams to make magic happen.
This is a combination of supportive and open, and collaborative. These two themes kept falling together: we’re inclusive, collaborative and flexible, open to new ideas and ways of working together - and that’s something we can’t do without supporting each other. This is similar to the old Learn Fast value, but the emphasis is on knowledge sharing vs taking on teacher/learner roles.
Progress over perfection
We pool our knowledge, creativity and tech smarts to get results fast. We identify quick wins, prioritise adding value, and challenge ourselves to work smarter. We’re not afraid of making mistakes; we are afraid of not making progress.
This is the drive to achieve value: just do it, perfect is the enemy of good / done, good enough is the new black, etc. Similar to the old Go Live value.
Make work joyous
We take our jobs seriously, not ourselves. We check our egos at the door and make Joyous a happy, fun, and positive place to be. We embrace playfulness and bring a sense of child-like wonder to work with us every day.
If we were ever going to say work hard, play hard, this would be the time (we’ll never say that). This is about encouraging the ‘things’ that make Joyous a happy place; having some variant of joy in it was practically a given. You can see this value in action in the milestone celebrations we held while in lockdown: Celebrating together, alone
Seek Truth is the only one of the previous values that we agreed didn’t really fit who we want to be. Not that seeking answers is a bad thing, but we didn’t think that being laser focused on finding the ‘one right answer’ was really our jam.
The new values align with our purpose: Make life better for working people, and product vision: Joyous helps everyone feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback that sparks action.
What’s next for Joyous culture?
It feels like most 2020 work stories come to a screeching halt at some point, and this one’s no different. Shortly after the initial value-storming session, we went into lockdown. We had a partially defined culture and a good-ish idea of the values we wanted to live up to, but we were no longer in the same place, or necessarily in the right headspace to do anything more with it.
So let’s jump forward in time a bit.
One thing that’s very important to us is maintaining our sense of culture and community while we continue to expand. And as anyone who’s worked in a high growth company will tell you, that’s easier said than done.
We hired a bunch more people during and after lockdown, and since we want everyone on the same page, that means culture’s back on the menu. We’ll be running another culture session with the entire company before the end of the year, to see if we still agree that these values reflect what Joyous is (and isn’t).
For now though, we’ll be replacing the old posters with shiny new ones. Progress over perfection!