When you are just a couple of people starting up a company, your goals are often straightforward and well understood. But as your company grows and becomes too big to have everything work without effort, it is time to think about what brings everyone together as a group of people and what the purpose of the company is. Here I am not talking about the legal entity 'company', whose goal it is to generate profit, but about the people. Why do they get out of bed – just to get a paycheck each month? For the sake of your long term success, I hope the answer to that is not "yes".
For those who are unsure about the validity of this claim, here are some links to check out:
So also began Futurice's discovery to the "why". I specifically use the word discovery because your long term identity and goals should flow from who you are. It should not be an invented why.
One of the elements in this discovery is our BHAG (big, hairy audacious goal; see wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Hairy_Audacious_Goal). Initially, we had several closed discussions about the subject, but we couldn't shake off a nagging feeling that we were doing it wrong. So we decided to do it differently, and make use of all the bright people in our company.
The format we ended up with was an election. From our previous discussions, we had three rough outlines of possible goals, and asked three people to represent them. The candidates will gather campaign teams that will start the discussion to improve those rough goal outlines to their finalized form. During the campaign, we will discuss and try to answer questions like "What are the merits of this particular goal?", "Why does it fit Futurice's values?", "How do we know that we have reached the goal?", "How does this goal make the world a better place?", etc. After the discussion – which, of course will include an election debate – it is time to vote and set our long term goal.
Why did we choose an election? Two reasons. First, it involves everybody. Everyone has the chance to have their voice heard as to what we should be striving for. The second and maybe most important reason is the resulting discussion. Discussion leads to discovery, and discovery leads to better decisions. The combination of the two ensures that the outcome has been thoroughly scrutinized and has broad support.
Your long term future is too important to be decided by a couple of people sealed off from everyone else. The discussion should be out in the open, involving everybody and the outcome should be supported by more than just management. We have a company which values trust and taking responsibility. We try to recruit the best and brightest with an interest reaching far beyond their own desk. It would simply be silly not to use that huge potential to shape our future.
Currently we are forming the campaign teams and defining the candidate goals. After the New Year we start the campaigns, and voting will most likely take place in March.
Follow our efforts to discover our future by following us on twitter http://twitter.com/futurice or keep an eye on this blog for updates on the Futurice goal election.