Corporate Culture is More Than Free Coffee

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Corporate Culture is More Than Free Coffee

What are the chances? Once considered lighthearted and rhetorical, these days that question is a bit cringy and may even elicit a slight wince. And with good reason. Corporate leaders and business owners spend a lot of time, and money, analyzing metrics, pouring over spreadsheets and continuously comparing projections; all in the hopes of better predicting revenue and market opportunities for their companies. But the past eighteen months has taught us some things are simply impossible to predict, and no amount of forecasting can failsafe a business from the far-reaching ripples of an economic crisis. With that being said, what can a company count on?

Many organizations have been asking themselves just that, and nearly all are coming to the same conclusion; the best investment a company can make right now…is in its people. Corporate culture isn’t just a perk, it’s a priority.

Google is just as well-known for its organizational culture as it is its search engine. From giant bean bags scattered throughout the open floorplan, a sand volleyball court, gaming tables, and a fully stocked kitchen, Google’s campus of offices are as distinctive and unique as their technology. And while that’s certainly garnered a lot of attention, it’s actually the employee dynamic that’s truly awe-inspiring…even given the organic garden that stocks the various complimentary cafes. At Google, employees who ‘live’ the Google brand, and are expressly aligned to the company, refer to themselves as ‘Googlers’. Even former employees of Google call each other ‘Xooglers’. With teams so immersed in the values of the organization and employees so intrinsically involved in the mission and vision, Google has redefined corporate culture.

Sure, the lavish accommodations and complimentary ‘anything you can imagine’, but there has to be something else that weaves this all into otherworldly success, right? Of course. It’s OKRs…that’s the not-so-secret-secret combination of inspiration, motivation and appreciation that has made corporate culture synonymous with success.

No one has more collective experience in implementing OKRs than Google. In John Doerr’s book, Measure What Matters, he details Google’s experience with the OKR framework, and more importantly, why and how it worked.

From Google’s OKR Playbook:

“Our actions determine Google’s future. As we’ve seen repeatedly, a team composed of a few percent of the company’s workforce, acting in concert toward an ambitious common goal, can change an entire mature industry in less than two years. Thus, it is crucial that as Google employees and managers we make conscious, careful, and informed choices about how we allocate our time and energy — as individuals and as members of teams. OKRs are the manifestation of those careful choices, and the means by which we coordinate the actions of individuals to achieve great collective goals.

We use OKRs to plan what people are going to produce, track their progress vs. plan, and coordinate priorities and milestones between people and teams. We also use OKRs to help people stay focused on the most important goals and help them avoid being distracted by urgent but less important goals.”

What Google has accomplished in the world of technology and innovation is unprecedented, but how they did it is less complex. OKRs are a structured, and connected, framework that help organizations translate their strategic plan into commitments that align teams, while driving execution. Implementing objectives and key results across a company provides transparency and visibility at the top level, and alignment, accountability, and inspiration throughout departments. Individual team members will have more clarity into corporate objectives and feel empowered by the role they play in the overall success of the company.

How OKR Impacts Culture

OKRs are not a silver bullet. They cannot substitute for sound judgment, strong leadership, or a creative workplace culture. But if those fundamentals are in place, OKRs can guide you to the mountaintop.

John Doerr

OKRs provide focus, alignment, commitment, and the tracking and stretching of goals. But it’s important to recognize that OKRs can’t transform struggling companies overnight. They aren’t magic, they require a strong, open, and creative workplace culture to take root. 

On the other side of adversity lies opportunity. As we continue to move forward in this new economic climate, we are all a bit changed by circumstance. It’s how we choose to learn from these experiences and apply that perspective to our businesses that will set us apart. The slow, but steady, pace of the market is a valuable window of time to strengthen our foundations, reinforce the fundamentals of a solid mission and vision, and instill confidence and inspiration to your teams. Implementing OKRs will show your organization that you’re committed to their growth, as well as the success of the business. We all feel better when we know we’re working toward something…together.

Join us for an upcoming discussion with our OKR partner,, where we discuss corporate culture and OKR:

The Executive's Guide to OKR

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