New strategy, no more ham
So now we have the manuscript ready. Our new vision contains the term “sustainable impact”. Our new mission involves “culture” as one of the key magics. Our new values are “transparency, autonomy, empathy, life-long learning, sustainability, impact over numbers and automation mindset”. Sounds like modern company buzzwords, and probably business bullshit to some, but knowing my colleagues, I won’t see ham in our breakfast table ever again. This blog post is about measuring the success of transforming a modern software company from happiest company to happiest company striving for sustainable impact.
Green values, from walls to KPIs
So how do we transform the abovementioned buzzwords to drivers of everyday life? Instead of company values as slogans on office walls and t-shirts, we measure those as company KPIs. For monitoring our strategy progress, and screening the company performance, we use balanced scorecard including 11 parameters, and more than half of them are measuring “soft values”. In other words, our image of a well-performing enterprise contains a company performing well in financials and client satisfaction, but even better in supplying meaningful work and sustainable impact.
Measuring something abstract
Now we have the mindset right; progress in soft values equals company success. But how do we measure this? How to measure company’s sustainable impact with a bullet-proof, non-questionable indicator. For this we have a bullet-proof answer: It is simply impossible. Like strategy process in general, it is all about making selections; you have to select the goals, you have to select the wording, you have to select how to implement the strategy, and you have to select what you measure and how you measure. Like with any selection, you may go right or wrong. But you can always fail and start again.
Let’s take culture as an example: At VALA we hire only culture-fit people who share same values and simply fit in our team. However, before we can all work under the same roof, we are, more or less, a virtual organisation which serves us a major challenge: How to cherish a culture in a virtual organisation? We believe that the very basics start from the feeling of unity, cohesion. But how can you have cohesion when people rarely see each other, especially at the office. Well, having seen various workplaces where people work next to each other and still discuss in Slack or similar, this should not be impossible. And we can always organise events. Therefore, to boost cohesion, we measure activity in daily discussion and activity in company events, practically with the number of Slack messages exchanged and the amount of VALA people joining our activities.
Measuring sustainable impact
Let’s keep swimming in the deep end and take sustainable impact as the second example. There is no way we could credibly and reliably monitor our success in creating sustainable impact. But it’s enough that we try. Therefore, we simply count the amount of activities for making an impact. That’s enough for now.
Measuring work meaningfulness
After these two, measuring meaningfulness of work is easy; in our systematic employee satisfaction surveys we simply ask people to grade how meaningful they find their work. After all, meaningfulness, is subjective.
Well ok, in addition to these three examples, we monitor company success with eight more traditional parameters. Although I tried, my colleagues didn’t allow me to remove financial indicators from company KPIs. So we still check business health with those conventional indicators, but maybe soon we can transform to 100% hippies, spread our wings and take the leap towards peace and love. Well, at least leave the financials in the background.
Do we really believe that these indicators measure the correct things with absolute values? No, but we really believe that by using any indicator to achieve certain goal we can create activity and mindset that takes us closer to the goal. Which leaves the indicator itself irrelevant.