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4.3.19

Making Culture Concrete

Rachelle Knowles

Making Culture Concrete

When many people think about company culture, they often think that it’s a soft and squishy topic related to snacks or perks. As a person who is actively working to make our agency a place where folks can do great work, I actively disagree. One thing I’ve learned after working in companies large and small is that culture is not soft or squishy; it can be cultivated and made concrete.

Culture shapes how we create our budgets, the way we hold conversations, and it’s in the programs and experiences we create for our people. Culture comes to life in our decision making, our everyday choices, and it’s embedded in our processes.

Making culture concrete means being intentional about all of the things I’ve mentioned above so that you are proactive in creating the company you’d like to work within. Last year, we took a big leap into a cultural project to determine our company purpose, vision, mission, and we established new values that were true to who we are as a company now. After about 5 months of intentional work, I’ve learned a lot! Here are my top 4 lessons:

Determine the intent

Why are you engaging in this process? Is your company in the right state, or even tenure, to dig into these meaty questions? Dagger turned 5 in October 2018, and part of what we learned along this process is that we reached a great time in our company’s journey to dig into these bigger questions.

Give yourself time

This process asked me to take on the roles of historian, facilitator and project manager. I spent time talking with Dagger employees, from our CEO to folks with 3 months tenure. I created many documents and there were countless rounds of conversations to make sure our language was just right. We know that this will live, breathe and grow alongside our organization, but we still needed to be intentional. And being intentional takes time.

 

Share along the way

We chose to share key updates in our company “All Hands” to keep the whole team looped in on the process. We rolled out our PVM in New Orleans at our company retreat, hangovers in tow but we made it happen anyways. Make sure that you’re being telegraphic with sharing so that people feel connected to it throughout.

Expect friction and misalignment

While this is a fun process, it can be brutal. Creating shared language to provide alignment about where a company is moving towards is a tall order and can be hard to do. You will most likely come up against opinions that are not aligned with what you’re clarifying and that’s okay! Those are often the best learning opportunities.

Here’s where we landed after all of that hard work:

Our Purpose: Dagger cultivates the improbable within people.
Our Vision: To be Atlanta’s most compelling agency for growth-minded talent. Ever.
Our Mission: Bring brands to the zeitgeist through a fanatical focus on all things content.
Our Values: Think Entrepreneurially, Elevate The Team, Courage Over Comfort, Integrate Health.

There are things that we can do to get under it and begin cultivating. We can consider that shifting culture is simply placemaking – what kind of spaces do we want to create for ourselves and our team to thrive? This is the work we’ve been embarking on at Dagger for the last 7 months.

So much of the world will tell you that you can’t shape culture, or your efforts are thwarted. We don’t know if that’s true, but we do know that at the very least, we’re interested in giving it a shot and creating a common language so that we’re clear about what we mean when we talk about culture at Dagger.