Startup Happiness Values Deck: Find your team’s cultural DNA

In 7 Principles of Startup Happiness we wrote:

We’re seeing a new type of entrepreneur starting companies lately; they are approaching their company culture with almost as much passion as the business idea itself, with the goal of creating the type of organization that they will be most happy being a part of.

We’d been working to create a canonical set of values that successful startup founders shared. As we began pitching these values to different startup teams, we found that each team had their own unique set of values. Startup founders start their own companies so that they can live according to their own values, not someone else’s! That led us to create the Startup Happiness Values Deck – a tool that startups can use to discover and discuss their own unique cultural DNA as well as to understand each other and work as a tighter team.

Here’s a picture of the cards:

Startup Happiness Values Dec

After testing out the Startup Happiness Values Deck on over 100 individuals and founding teams, in person and at events such as Summit at SeaLUXrQuantified Self, and Startup Lessons Learned, as well as with our coaching clients (both in person and over the phone).

We’re finding that it’s a terrific shortcut to creating meaningful conversations about company values and culture. Sometimes it also surfaces, clarifies and suggests solutions to current important issues the team faces.

We’ve been working with our friends at Delivering Happiness to create a version oriented toward the broader corporate and work world.   (If you’re in San Francisco, join us Thurs evening (6/23) for the San Francisco Delivering Happiness Town Hall where you can try out the first version of this new deck with your team! The first 40 participants will get to take one home to play with.)

Different versions of the deck have between 20 and 30 cards (we’re using an iterative process to introduce new cards and eliminate unpopular ones). We ask each person on a team to stack rank the values, according to what makes them the happiest at work, and we’ve been impressed with how unique and individual the results are.

Even more interesting are the conversations we have with teams after each individual has completed the exercise. The foundation and cultural DNA of the company is laid bare, along with launching points into understanding individual needs and differences, and turning shared values into habits.

Because the values cards are external, moveable, and tactile, people seem to be able to discuss difficult challenges with more ease, and reach solutions more quickly.

As coaches, we’ve found this to be an invaluable tool to help us create constructive conversations amongst team members very quickly. For teams who are experiencing challenges reaching agreement or making decisions, it often helps to explain why that might be happening, and allows us to facilitate solution-oriented conversations.

We are available for 2-hr or half-day workshops for startups, teams, or incubator programs; we will customize the material to meet the needs of your unique situation. We enjoy helping teams to learn, grow, and succeed!

Agile & Lean Self Development at Quantified Self Conference 2011

Today Dale Larson and I will be giving an Ignite! talk and workshop about Agile/Lean Self Development at the Quantified Self Conference.

The idea of Quantified Self is that you take ongoing measurements about things that you’re interested in knowing more about, and changing, like sleep, diet, exercise, and mood (aka self-tracking). Software developers are notoriously interested in improving and optimizing things (not just code!), and many QS’ers seem to have a background in computing.

I’ve spoken before (at SxSW 2011 with Dinah Sanders) about Agile Self Development. We’re excited about repurposing the vast, rich body of tools and methods called Agile Software Development, and using it to help people improve themselves. At SxSW, we had a lively chat with a few hundred attendees about how to get the most out of the conference. Out of that experience, Scott Pierce (who attended the talk), started an Agile Self Development group in Birmingham that hosts a daily standup, and has made tremendous progress in moving toward goals.

Recently we attended Eric Ries’ second Startup Lessons Learned Conference, which focuses on the concept of the Lean Startup. A Lean Startup is an organization that is optimized for creating the most validated customer learning in the shortest amount of time. It’s a new-ish concept, only a few years old, but it’s gathering steam quickly in the startup world. They use the mandate: “Build, Measure, Learn”. They start by assuming that you don’t know anything until you get out of the building and come into contact with real customers, and the most learning comes when you put product in their hands. Releasing an early beta in weeks is better than building a product in “stealth mode” for years before unleashing a well-polished, ready-to-scale flop.

We are hoping that the QS community will find the tools in Agile Software Development and Lean Startup communities to be useful in conducting experiments and creating change; we think that it’s a great place to borrow from. Some useful concepts from this body of knowledge are:

We are curious to hear if anyone is already using Agile or Lean Startup methodologies in their Quantified Self projects. Please find us at the conference, or send us a tweet! @marcyswenson @dalelarson

Postscript: looks like Thomas Christiansen is using Agile and QS on a project related to allergies; more info at <a href="MyMee.

6 Steps for using Agile Self Development

Agile Self-Development is a lightweight methodology for personal development that is a reaction against all-or-nothing goals and resolutions. It lets geeks repurpose Agile tools and methodologies with which they may already be familiar.

Dinah Sanders wrote a lovely Agile Self-Development Manifesto that really resonates with me:

  • Increasing individual flow using whatever works over adherence to a system
  • Quality of life over quantity of achievement
  • Simplicity over complexity
  • Responding to change over following a script

BSP: Dinah Sanders and I are hosting a core conversation about Agile Self Development at SXSW, on Saturday, March 12th, at 11am in room Rio Grande B at the Marriott Courtyard, 300 East 4th Street (half a block from the northwest door to the convention center).

When I start working with a new coaching client, they often arrive with a massive list of everything that they want to accomplish in their work and their life. Desires are limitless! This situation reminds me of a CEO who is hungry for every single feature in a software product to be implemented immediately. So how to begin? Here is what we do next:

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5 Tips for Maintaining Confidence on the Road to Funding

One of the most challenging hurdles for early entrepreneurs is raising money. To get funded, you need to do a lot of prep work: you need a great vision, savvy initial product development, thorough market understanding, thoughtful execution, a kick-ass team, and luck.

A critical part of fundraising is connecting with people; both the people who will help you along the road, and the people who will actually write a check.

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Behavioral Interviewing for Awesome Teams

One of the best ways I’ve found to create high-functioning teams is to interview well. (The other is to create a company & culture that great people voraciously want to join, so that when you find someone terrific, they say “yes.”)

There are four things I want to know about a candidate before I make them an offer: Continue reading

7 Principles of Startup Happiness (v 0.1)

We’re seeing a new type of entrepreneur starting companies lately; they are approaching their company culture with almost as much passion as the business idea itself, with the goal of creating the type of organization that they will be most happy being a part of.

Over the past several months, I’ve been working with my colleague and fellow business coach Dale Larson to try to describe this phenomenon. We’ve tested it out with a variety of entrepreneurs, VCs and journalists in meetings and at parties, and heard lots of yes. Here is our first formal presentation of these ideas.

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Zuckerberg on Making Mistakes

This week at the Web 2.0 Summit, Mark  Zuckerberg from Facebook talked about four values that he’s made a key part of his company’s DNA: move fast, be bold, take risks, and don’t worry about getting everything right.

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