Starting up Work Culture

A Practical Guide to Build Your Culture from Scratch

Balaya Moharana, Head of Technology, DeHaat Agrevolution

A good Work Culture is the best thing that can happen to your business. It is the “Secret Sauce” that makes the Whole much greater than the Sum of its Parts— it brings in performance, productivity, and eventual success. Yet, Culture it is not a business KPI that you can measure and evaluate directly. Culture is intangible albeit Results from a well-functioning culture are very much tangible.

So how do you start? You start backwards — to create a work culture fit for your operation, you have to reverse engineer from the Results. As a team, you need to be productive first. You need to produce something tangible that demonstrates your collective ability — that can coalesce the team around it — that can build confidence, motivation, and energy. The First Burst of productivity — that is the seed that will germinate into your Team Culture.

First Burst

How do you create the First Burst? You start from your Founding Vision and implement your first Minimum Viable Product (MVP), carefully curated with features that may have the maximum potential to provide the kick-start needed for your team. The First Burst should be built with following five objectives:

1. Solves a Core Problem

2. Well defined problem statement and user group

3. Immediate usage by the target user group

4. Well-designed Showpiece

5. Intense and Aggressive Development Cycle

Example: DeHaat INOC Solution

This is exactly what we did at DeHaat when we started to build a team for the purpose of developing software solutions for our extensive Agri supply chain operations. One of the core problems to solve was to make sure our call center agents have full access to information about farmers and what Agri input can be sold to them based on the season and the crop they are growing. This was a very well-defined problem statement and the target user group.

We paid a lot of attention in making the UI design based on Information Design principles of Accessibility and Digestibility. We set an aggressive timeline for ourselves and we were able to get the first release out for UAT with select group of our call center agents within time. The solution was well-received by the users and enhanced their productivity multi-fold — it solved one of the core problems of our operations. INOC Solution also became a showpiece as part of our investor demos that demonstrated very clearly on our capability conceptualizing, designing, and delivering highly functional software within time.

Culturing the Culture

That was our First Burst out of the door and it was a success — it checked all the boxes described above. But how does this exercise help to create the work culture? Let’s backtrack and look at the Five Objectives we started with.

Intense and Aggressive Timeline — proves that this team can work under pressure and execute the mission successfully. That kind of activity builds understanding and camaraderie in a team. Productive engagements within a team repeated over time creates Trust. Trust is the magic word, the glue that binds a productive work culture.

Well-designed Showpiece — proves your skills at Product Conceptualization, how well the team was able to take available ideas and inputs from various stakeholders, conceptualize a solution, design a well-appointed user interface that meets or exceeds the needs of the users.

Immediate UsageFeedback from real users provides sense of the Impact of the work in real world. This validates the hard work the team has put in this exercise and brings the sense of Ownership to all participants.

Well-defined Problem Statement — Indicates that there is Clarity of Purpose within the ranks and there are real business and market needs to be solved, that the Founding Vision is well considered and stands on solid ground.

Baseline Behaviors

First MVP helps you create a baseline reference on what works and how they work, what should be repeated and what should be discarded. In essence, you get a baseline of productive behaviors and actions — observed from the real-world execution of a project, not just from theoretical concepts. It helps you visualize what your internal processes should be, a process that’s home-grown and aligned with the temperament, thoughts, passions and personalities of your team members.

Culture of Excellence

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an Act but a Habit” — this Quote is attributed to Aristotle*. The baseline behaviors should be repeated on a consistent basis to generate trust, sense of ownership and efficient internal processes. These are the building block for the eventual Team Culture. You must repeat and refine on them to the point where everyone in the team is fully accustomed to the Way of the Work.

Living Entity

Culture is not “once and done” kind of setup — it is a Living Entity. It must evolve and scale with growth of the organization. It must be continually refreshed and revitalized with a feedback loop from success and productivity on the ground. Complacency kills Culture.

Next: Keeping up with the Culture — The Productivity Pyramid

References

From Soil to Market — Building Tech Solutions for Next Agri Revolution