Over the last two centuries, the evolution of Management has gone through several fads, few of them are considered the ‘in thing’ to do even today. Assembly line manufacturing, just-in-time management, six sigma are just a few of these changing styles. The current fad is to embrace a ‘Startup Culture’. Just like the eccentric and new - age Startup companies Tesla and SpaceX, even the professionally run organizations like Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, have started showing an interest in encouraging start-up behaviors amongst their employees; though these organizations have been in existence for more than 100 years.
Organizations are trying to embrace a 'Startup mindset' to stay relevant and remain competitive. However, identifying the right set of behaviors and then getting them to work has become a real challenge. Employees find it difficult to understand and demonstrate them in their day to day activities. Therefore, these Behaviors remain as letters and words on paper and not alive in the spirit of the organizations. Let us look at how we can make this Startup culture click.
A compelling mission
Crafting a compelling mission is fundamental to any start up culture. Top consulting firms like McKinsey, BCG, DDI continue to highlight the importance of having a compelling mission that engages ones’ work force and makes the impossible, achievable.
Yet a handful of firms rarely get the equation right. For example, the 2017 new entrant to the Fortune 500’s list, Tesla, which has articulated a powerful mission ‘to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport; by bringing compelling, mass-market electric cars, to market as soon as possible’. Google’s mission is ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’. SpaceX, the disruptive space exploration organization which was founded in 2002, has articulated its mission as ‘to enable the space flight capabilities necessary to make human life multi - planetary to enable a self-sustaining human civilization’
While crafting such simple and powerful mission statements are not simple; if done successfully, organizations create history in the evolution of Mankind. Even the well-established large organizations play a vital role in nurturing the startup DNA by enabling its departments and teams to craft their compelling mission or sense of purpose at various levels which aligns with the overall Corporate mission of the Organization.
Creativity and innovation
The terms creativity and innovation are used more frequently in profit and non-profit sectors. McKinsey, in its recent article, claims that building a discipline in these areas requires a set of carefully thought-through management practices. We can see the importance of integrating ideas and experience at three levels - products, services, and environments.
For example, Tesla adopts unconventional practices such as selling cars in shopping malls, manufacturing facilities painted in bright white, manufactured cars having introduced the 17” touchscreen dashboard, the release of frequent software upgrades in its cars and so on. Thus, bringing in the WOW! experience for its stakeholders. SpaceX has brought about innovative Re-usable Rockets with capacity for weekly launches, thereby creating new paradigms in line to its space mission. Often, creativity and innovation act as the fundamental reason for launching Startup companies. The behaviors pertaining to creativity and innovation can be developed in established Organizations as well. One of the Global FMCG leaders, Procter & Gamble (P & G), has been very active in the space of open innovation through its connect and develop the program and involve the outside community in developing its products.
Agility of an organization can be noticed by its ability to make faster decisions, its ability to work with fading job boundaries and its ability to deliver quicker.
The WEF Chairman, Prof. Claus Schwab, famously stated that “in the new world, it is not the big fish which eats the small fish, it’s the fast fish which eats the slow fish”. When Tesla was about to be bankrupt in the earlier half of the decade, most of the employees irrespective of their roles and responsibilities were involved in boosting the sales and break the wall of inter-departmental accountabilities for an intermittent period. This created a miracle in terms of overall sales and helped the organization move back to its growth trajectory (Ref: Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX, Tesla is shaping our future by Ashlee Vance, Virgin Digital, 2015). Mckinsey has published an article with interesting examples from the 125 - year - old pharma giant Johnson & Johnson on how the organization could effectively transform itself by adopting Digital practices and agile methodologies to most of the Research and Development projects.
Wherever resilience thrives in an organization, employees display a higher degree of ownership and deliver superior results. When Apple was struggling to make profits, and moving towards bankruptcy, the original founder Steve Jobs was brought back. He then led a strategic partnership with Microsoft to earn an investment of 150 million USD. The subsequent launch of Apple’s iMac has turned the equation around and today we are witnessing a market cap of close to 800 Bn USD. Airbnb, the 25 Bn USD worth company has gone through seven rounds of rejection by the Venture Capitalists. During the early 2000s, Google was trying to sell its platform and assets to Yahoo for a price of 3 Bn USD. The list continues to well-established players as well. IBM went through a rough time in 1993 and eventually recovered as an integrated services provider. The bankruptcy of an iconic Automaker, General Motors, in the year 2009 is another case in point. Though the US Government helped to back up the Organization, the net positive earnings reported since 2015 has been surprising the Business community. As startup culture thrives on experimentation, failure is inevitable in the process of building exemplary products and ecosystems and those who could show greater resilience as part of the culture recovers faster and remains successful.
Though there are many factors which influence the success of any organization, closer examination of the above-stated examples of Tesla, J & J, IBM, Apple etc. provide a compelling proposition to embrace these aforesaid mindsets/behaviors to establish a successful ‘Startup Culture’. To begin with, leaders at various levels of the organization may start to focus on the following:
- Role model these above-stated behaviors in one’s sphere of influence and get them reflected in day – to – day actions
- Implementing cultural readiness assessments across the organization to assess the ‘as is’ and ‘to be’ states and to design specific people interventions
- Designing appropriate rewards and reinforcement mechanisms and
- Fostering environments where people can experiment and constantly learn
As Tim Westergren, co-founder of Pandora states, “Make your team feel respected, empowered and genuinely excited about the company’s mission”. Organizations and leaders play a vital role in creating such Startup environments, where individuals are charged to leave an impact and build remarkable stories.