Takeaways: ‘Managing Startup Teams: Building Culture’ with Anne Libby at GA

12 Mar

Class: Anne Libby of Anne Libby Management Consulting on “Managing Startup Teams: Building Culture”, via GA

Date: March 6 2012, 18:00 – 19:30

When it comes to building teams – especially when those teams consist of people in far-flung offices around the world – I’m yet to be persuaded that anything is more important than culture*.

And by culture I mean the shared stories, the common values, that explicitly articulated and implicitly understood characteristics that inspire people to rally around that cause, that product, that service. The why-you-want-to-work-here-when-X-would-pay-you-twice-as-much. The-this-is-why-I-get-up-in-at-dawn-on-a-day-when-I’m-not-even-supposed-to-be-in-because-the-team-needs-me-and-hey-they-didn’t-even-have-to-ask factor.

I’ve worked on two projects that I may claim to have helped build and shape; both of these projects had quite distinct cultures.

But what they had in common was excellence über Alles. And yes, that included being excellent to each other (or put another way, jerks need not apply).

Two of my favourite blogs both recently featured culture-as-it-relates-to-startups as a theme, and I thought I’d highlight them as the lesson is relevant to the takeaway from the General Assembly class (which was, not surprisingly, all about culture).The iDonethis blog, in a post on “How to build the machine that builds the product“, shared this anecdote:

Mark Pincus, discussing his experience of growing Zynga, observed that products can be built “through the strength of your personality and lack of sleep,” but that doesn’t scale — and soon “you’ve got to find some way to keep everybody going in productive directions when you’re not in the room.”

The team over at The Startup Daily stressed hiring for cultural fit:

Your culture defines your brand. Get the culture right, and everything else will fall into place. Wait too long to pay attention to your culture and it will become much harder to correct down the road.

And Anne Libby, in her class at General Assembly on “Managing Startup Teams”, said:

The point of values and culture is to create principles and systems that exist and persist whether you’re there or not. You are not scalable; the culture you create is.

Founders don’t scale. Product managers don’t scale. Sometimes software doesn’t even scale. But culture? Culture scales.

[*Ok, the initial hires are hugely important – not least because they will help create the culture of the company. To quote Tribal Leadership:

The success of a company depends on its tribes, the strength of its tribes is determined by the tribal culture, and a thriving corporate culture can be established by an effective tribal leader. – Tribal Leadership


(Founder Stories) Dennis Crowley: “The Hard Part Is Building The Machine That Builds The Product” – TechCrunch
What defines Hulu? – Hulu
Culture Eats Strategy For Lunch – Fast Company

Elsewhere on Ent!
Takeaways: Jason Schwartz’s ‘How Product is Built’ class at GA
Takeaways: Alex Taub’s ‘Intro II Business Development & Partnership for Startups’ Skillshare class

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