A word from a CEO #93

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Building an autonomous culture

Hi all –

I’ve been thinking a lot about culture recently. Because as we grow – particularly in our new Digital First environment – we need to make sure that our culture continues to shine through. And that new Drifters understand what we celebrate and what we don’t tolerate.

One thing that is important to me as we continue to scale is autonomy.

When I first talked about building an autonomous culture it was in relation to product teams – but in my vision of a successful company, it extends to all departments. And here are the five ingredients we need to get there:

  1. Customer-Driven: The team has to commit to spending time with customers, wowing them to increase their product usage and adoption metrics. The team doesn’t try to offload this responsibility because they are “busy”. They understand that delivering customer value and understanding customers is the best use of their time.
  2. Accountability: This is the ingredient that people get wrong the most. They try to have a model of autonomy with very little or no accountability built-in. Autonomy without accountability is anarchy – not autonomy. Each person needs to be personally accountable for their decisions for autonomy to work. Finger-pointing and excuses destroy autonomy.
  3. Transparency: Default to transparency. Each person and team need to over-communicate their goals, performance, ideas, and concerns. As a company, it’s also up to us to share everything (financial, board decks, etc.) with the team.
  4. Iterative Approach: Being customer-driven doesn’t mean you’re only focused on major improvements/features. Customers appreciate an incremental approach. This shows customers that you are listening to them and making changes based on their feedback. Don’t interpret being customer-driven as being lost in weeks and weeks of customer conversations.
  5. Ownership: It’s critical that there is a clear owner or “DRI” of something. Most companies get this wrong and regress to a “pool” model where no one has clear ownership and people duplicate efforts and tasks.

I encourage each of you to think about how you can apply the five ingredients to autonomy in how you work each day, then go out and do it.

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