The Importance of Company Values: Articulating, Living, and Changing
At a recent CEO Summit, Twilio CEO and co-founder Jeff Lawson shared his insights on the importance of company values and culture. He highlighted the three key aspects: articulating, living, and changing company values. Lawson emphasized that articulating values is not about creating them from scratch but rather identifying and expressing what already exists within the company.
The Three Dimensions of Company Values
Lawson explained that values should encompass three dimensions: people, product, and process.
People: Values associated with people help in decision-making regarding hiring, firing, and how employees should treat each other. It is essential to consider values that foster a positive work environment and attract like-minded individuals.
Product: While it may be less intuitive, product-related values reflect how the company’s products are developed, how customers are treated, and how the company responds to challenges and opportunities. These values are embedded in the very essence of the product.
Process: Values associated with process are about how decisions are made within the company. This includes reporting progress, holding people accountable, and fostering trust. In many cases, companies acknowledge the importance of trust but fail to establish processes that reflect and uphold this value.
Culture: Living Your Values
Lawson emphasized that culture represents the lived experience of the company’s values. While values are written words, culture is how these values are put into action on a day-to-day basis. He urged companies to go beyond mere posters and coasters by integrating values into the fabric of the organization.
Articulating Your Values
When it comes to articulating values, Lawson stressed the importance of timing. He recommended doing it when the company is between 20-40 employees, not too early or too late. It’s crucial to involve a diverse group of stakeholders in the process, ensuring that everyone feels ownership of the values.
To articulate Twilio’s values, Lawson convened a group of twelve individuals from different departments within the company. They engaged in discussions and gathered ideas, resulting in over 100 suggestions. After evaluating and consolidating these ideas, they arrived at the final set of nine values through a process of elimination and refinement.
It’s worth noting that Twilio intentionally chose values that are action-oriented and easily understood by all employees. Each value is concise, using simple language and actionable verbs. By doing so, Twilio ensures that the values are relatable, tangible, and can be lived by every individual in the company.
Living Your Values
Lawson highlighted the importance of leaders embodying the company’s values. The CEO and founders must exemplify these values for others to follow suit. However, it is equally important to hire individuals who have the capacity to embrace the values and integrate into the company’s culture. While it may not happen immediately, people who are open to living the values and aligning with the company’s vision should be given the opportunity to do so.
The Challenge of Changing Values
While it’s essential to evaluate and reconsider company values periodically, Lawson cautioned against changing them too frequently. Values need continuity and must resonate with the company’s identity. When considering changes, it’s crucial to involve the entire organization and assess the impact on culture and employee buy-in.
Drawing inspiration from Twilio’s experience, Lawson shared the importance of maintaining authenticity in company values. He cautioned against choosing values that may look good on paper but lack tangible meaning. It’s vital to focus on values that employees can relate to and act upon in their daily work.
In conclusion, Lawson stressed that company values must be consciously managed. By articulating and living these values, organizations can create a strong culture that guides decision-making and shapes the company’s future.