It just so happened that over the past few weeks, I attended a couple of reunions with ex-colleagues at two of my earliest employers. As always when we meet up, it was as if the intervening years had just melted away and we quickly got back to interacting with everyone as if we were still colleagues. So this got me wondering – what is it about these shared experiences that makes it possible for such a diverse group to still get together and have so much fun?
Organisation culture is a much discussed concept. Clearly, the cultures at these two organisations were so strong that it still retains pleasant memories, even if most people have moved out and worked with multiple other organisations. These are my views on what made the culture at these places so strong:
- Respect – Everyone at both these organisations had immense respect for their colleagues, irrespective of their educational or professional backgrounds or their current roles. I would rank this as the most important factor that defined the culture of these companies.
- Ownership – There was a strong sense of ownership, coupled with togetherness, which resulted in a shared feeling of achievement. I genuinely cannot recollect any unhealthy competition between teams at either of these two organisations.
- Learning – Both these organisations were pioneers in their fields (at least within India). This meant that the work being done was such that had never really been done before or only done at very few other organisations. This contributed to immense learning (and sense of achievement)
- Lack of hierarchies – I can comfortable say that I have not seen the type of open door culture that existed at these two organisations anywhere else. It did help that most teammates were of a similar age (no major generational gaps). But even when that was not the case, there were no egos anywhere within the senior management teams.
- Communication – Experts would say that this is one of the most important elements of culture. And I would agree. However, it is not just formal communication that’s important. In fact, I believe that having multiple channels for ‘informal’ communication to happen (and not gossip) plays a strong role in getting people together and feeling part of one team.
- Have fun – Having opportunities to interact with your colleagues in an informal, relaxed setting to discuss anything other than work is also very important. It helped that most of us were young and early in our careers which meant that it was relatively easy to get together after office hours. But what was also key was that the senior management team were also keen and tried as much as possible to join these post-work catch-ups. Again, another channel for the ‘informal’ communication I mentioned in my previous point.
What are the other important elements of organisation culture? Would love to hear your thoughts!