Foundations of culture – The 200 words project

When he visited Jeff Bezos’ investment office, venture capitalist Bryce Roberts noticed a piece of furniture that seemed out of place – a table with a wooden door atop some legs jerry rigged together. The “door desk,” he was told, was a symbol of the early frugality Amazon embraced early on which, in turn, was a key part of Amazon’s culture.

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On reading the story behind the compliance crisis HR services company Zenefits faced a few months back, Bryce shared an anecdote that caught his attention. Zenefits founder Conrad Parker made a small decision early on – he created a macro to bypass the systems created to certify that someone had completed the required training to sell insurance in the state of California. He believed that 52 hours was too long to spend in training.

This act resulted in serious compliance issues that threatened to wreck the company. Each article about the Zenefits crisis showed glimpses of the tone the macro set within the company. Ever since, a lot of work has gone in to tear out the old foundation in hopes of saving the company.

Like cement, the cultural foundation for new projects/companies/teams sets early. Mindful, we must be…

These small, seemingly insignificant, early decisions to save money by building ramshackled desks or building tools to cheat the system set the foundation for company culture that everything after gets built upon. – Bryce Roberts

Source and thanks to: Bryce’s blog post – “When Culture Sets