The culture of a business is central to everything that happens there, and is more fundamental than everything else. As many have said, culture eats strategy for lunch.
Imagine you’d like to make your organization more creative or more innovative. How do you approach that? By adding new tasks to people’s to do lists? By bringing in outside experts? By redesigning the work place?
Mathew May thinks you should start by doing less: specifically, by dropping some rules.
Most people by now know about the Netflix vacation policy, which is essentially to have no policy. Employees simply take as much time off as they want, whenever they want. No one tracks vacation days. Compare that to conventional rules and policies, which usually result in people being forced to use their vacation or work the system to get paid for time not taken.
The power of this kind of self-organization suggests that creativity and innovation might best be achieved not through rigid hierarchy and central controls, but from one or two vital agreements. These agreements are often implicit, that everyone understands and is accountable for, yet that are left open to individual interpretation and variation. The limits of the rule are set by social context.
The quote by Netflix vice president Steve Swasey sums it up quite nicely:
Rules and policies and regulations and stipulations are innovation killers. People do their best work when they’re unencumbered. If you’re spending a lot of time accounting for the time you’re spending, that’s time you’re not innovating.
And, more specifically, when you are wondering whether you can or can’t take some time off you certainly aren’t getting some deep alone-time at the beach, or dreaming up a new angle for marketing next year’s model.
We can changing our business culture by taking rules away, and maybe keep only the simplest of rules, like trust.