Leadership, Management, Internal Culture and Stuffed Animals

I saw this story via my LinkedIn profile today and was totally amazed by what I read.

These were the parts that really got to me, emphases mine:

At the mention of Whoops, a handful of team members would stand up and one-by-one retell the story of a mistake, big or small. It might have been a mishandled customer case, a forgotten internal data analysis or causing a car accident on the way to work. Often, the team’s managers and directors contributed anecdotes. Once or twice, an employee’s Whoops mistake cost Google millions of dollars. After hearing all the yarns, the team voted on the worst mistake and Whoops would be thrown from one side of the room to the other, finding the “winner” of the competition who would put the monkey in his or her cubicle for the week.

Then Duke the dog was summoned. In contrast to Whoops’ self-reported monkeywrench mistakes, Duke stories are retold by someone else and the dog is a reward for service to the team that went above and beyond the call of duty. Several Googlers would stand and tell a story of a teammate’s dedication: how a colleague alerted them of a problem in a customer’s account, or stayed late that week to process unusually high customer spoort volumes, or released an internal tool that might have increased our productivity dramatically. Again, the team would vote on the stories and Duke would be bestowed on the winner. Then, the all hands meeting adjourned.

Despite their childlike simplicity, Duke and Whoops, were incredibly effective management tools. Whoops created a culture of honesty and transparency, where mistakes were shared in an environment of openness, trust and support. With Whoops, Kim created a culture that valued learning and camraderie over pride.

Duke celebrated our internal successes. Each week, we wanted to win Duke because we knew whatever effort we contributed at the very least would be celebrated before our teammates and Duke, prominently displayed on in our cubicle would remind our teammates and start conversations. That knowledge made us all work harder.

To the individual, it mattered who won Duke and Whoops. But sharing all of the stories, building a community based on shared experience and trust, was far more important and beneficial to the team. The dog and the monkey were tools to weave a fabric of shared experience and create a culture of strong values.

Can you imagine your company creating a culture that truly values honesty and transparency? Where mistakes are shared with openness, trust and support; where learning and camaraderie is valued over pride?

I am a firm believer that one of the most overlooked and undervalued things in an organization is its internal culture. Leaders and managers are too often focused on immediate gains and easy-to-report KPIs, leaving internal culture to the HR department, or worse, a part-time special interest group. Leaders must realize that their main job is leading people to achieve success and greatness – which then translates to results.

Maybe this is why Google continues its momentum as the world’s #2 brand, with its stock price hitting the $1,000 mark.

 

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