Strategy

​Building blocks of a transparent company culture

Starting off 2020 focused on transparency

We wrapped up our explosive Kickoff 2020, an all-hands company event hosted across our US and European offices, a few weeks ago. We reflected on the previous year, communicated plans for 2020, as well as iterated on the organizational design together with the team - more on the last one in a moment. The Kickoff is a block of a larger communication strategy that is built on transparency - a strategy that has enabled us to attract and retain the best people while collecting Inc. 5000 growth badges seven years in a row. I believe that transparency, one of our core values, is a fundamental building block that enables the organization and employees to stay engaged, appreciated, and influential.

 

 

 

Transparency, fussy quality that it is, doesn’t gain traction if it’s partial. Think of it as a binary - you’re either open, or you’re restrictive with information access. There’s no in-between. Since our founding days, we believed that our clients and our team deserved to have access to the kitchen and make their own educated, adult decisions.

 

There’s no in-between with transparency. You're either all in, or you're restricting information and trust.
 

Our employees have access to company financials - detailed revenue, cost, and profitability. Our clients use our PowerUp app to view their product portfolio, agile metrics, burn rate, as well as individual time entries associated with Jira stories. All or nothing. 

 

Once this data nucleus was established, we decided to scale communication and access across all channels available - our verbal and written communication, our events, and our company tools.

Transparency in verbal and written communication

Transparency is embedded in our communication across all layers - peer to peer, team, office, and organizational.

  • 360 feedback. Candid, anonymous feedback is collected from the working team on an ongoing basis. The result is a self-governing, healthy, self-healing team that focuses on outcomes instead of an activity. Mediocrity is actively identified and addressed.
  • Monthly “Let’s talk” in each office. We host a safe, open discussion led by the office lead that focuses on the state of business, promotions, hiring, operational topics, events, and so forth. The team has an opportunity to raise issues or concerns that are tackled on the spot. Questions can be submitted anonymously prior to the session. A detailed summary of notes and feedback is recirculated to the team after each session.
  • Monthly office updates. Each office lead sends out a monthly email update - progress on projects, hiring, travel, etc.
  • Quarterly performance review with Adam. Our VP of Services reviews sales, delivery, and financial results for the quarter, communicates objectives for the next quarter.
  • Quarterly video updates. I send out a quarterly video update, format of which changes from episode to episode. Some are focused on interviewing the team, others on battles we’ve fought and lost, yet others on trends we’re seeing in the market.

Transparency at events

Global events and local collaboration are incredibly important for a team that is generally distributed across five geographies. 

  • Annual Kickoff. See above about our annual event where we reflect, plan, iterate, and celebrate.
  • Annual SummerCamp. All teams from across the globe fly to Lithuania for a week of collaboration and celebration. On the weekend, we literally ascend on a campground by the sea with 500+ of us celebrating, competing, playing, and partying into the wee hours of the morning. 
  • Semiannual live Q&A. With the leadership on stage, the team posts anonymous questions that are voted on. All questions are answered. None are censored. None are skipped. The Q&A is a great exercise to build trust, candor, and transparency–as well as a great barometer of overall team sentiment for a given moment in time.
  • Annual company retro. Multiple groups of employees run individual retrospectives on what the company should continue doing, what isn’t working and should be changed, and what new things the company can start doing. Data is aggregated, voted on by the team, and implemented. 

Transparency through tools

We help our clients create a competitive advantage by introducing custom software in areas that save costs, drive revenue, or elevate the customer experience. We apply that same model to our internal tools - products that we invest in and that help us operate using our unique process. 

  • DevRevenue is a bespoke tool that allows our managers to admin allocation, utilization, project hiring needs, project revenue, etc. It provides transparency across our portfolio of 30+ active engagements.
  • PowerUp (see above) is a tool for our clients to see day to day mechanics of product delivery.
  • DevbridgeTV is a bespoke application that runs on all TVs in our offices and shows key organizational metrics, financials, news announcements, videos, team birthdays, and more.
  • TeamApp is the company's social network. 

Now that I’ve written out all the building blocks of a transparent culture, I realize how massive of an investment it has been. Many of these ideas are a result of our Company Retrospectives, ideas that are introduced and executed by the team - and that’s really the point, isn’t it? 

Thanks for reading and let me know of any other techniques that you’ve seen to be effective at advancing an open, candid, and transparent culture in the workplace. And if you want to make an impact and for you to matter, we're always hiring!