Building a Strong Company Culture to Support Your Mission-Critical Assets
Any company that grows through acquisition needs to be as thoughtful and thorough in its approach to integrating newly acquired people as it is in integrating systems, products and financials. It’s often the piece that makes an acquisition truly successful, particularly in our line of business, where we’re responsible for managing our customers’ mission-critical assets. During our recent growth, DataBank leadership has been keenly focused on the “people” aspect and purposefully set out to ensure that all team members across all of the acquired companies had an opportunity to help shape and embrace a culture we could all be proud of.
“Paying close attention to our culture and purpose is a big part of why we’re performing so well while so many other firms struggle to make M&A work,” says DataBank CEO Raul Martynek “A strong culture inspires and energizes people, creating a more cohesive team with a unified purpose: to continually serve our customers better.”
Martynek outlined the principles – call them “musts” – upon which the DataBank culture is built:
- Be Authentic: Our culture must reflect who we really are and incorporate the best aspects of each organization we’ve brought into the DataBank family.
- Be Aligned: Our culture (internal) must align with our brand (external) and its promise of “Evolving the Data Center Experience.”
- Be Articulated: Our culture must be expressed in simple, memorable messages that resonate with our team members.
- Be Actionable: Our culture must be backed by behaviors that deliver a world-class experience for our customers.
- Be Affirmed: Our culture must be measurable so we can make sure we were living it and staying true to it.
Uncovering Our Characteristic Behaviors
To ensure our culture is authentic to who we truly are, we designed a year-long process that touched every employee company-wide. This included group workshops and one-on-one interviews at every level of the organization and across our locations to gain an accurate picture of how team members really experienced – and felt about – the company’s day-to-day culture. As part of that process, we utilized a survey instrument called CultureTalk™ that was designed specifically to measure the “character” of the culture in each of our locations. Rooted in the famous psychologist Carl Jung’s notion of storytelling “archetypes” (e.g., the Hero, the Caregiver, the Sage, the Outlaw, etc.), the CultureTalk platform provided an amazing snapshot of our behavioral “inventory” that allowed us to find the common behaviors that can drive a shared sense of purpose.
Aiming for Brand and Culture Alignment
To take the next step of aligning our brand and culture, we compared the CultureTalk survey output with the findings from two earlier exercises: a half-day internal brand workshop and a series of subsequent customer interviews. This helped ensure that the language we used and the narratives we developed would be powerfully resonant with both employees and customers. The CultureTalk data was particularly helpful here, as each archetype has a unique narrative quality that allowed us to craft a story that knit the brand and culture closer together.
Articulating Our Purpose
As we sought to clearly and simply articulate the tenets of our brand and culture, we turned to a new messaging framework called “Purpose-Way-Impact” or PWI – a contemporary alternative to the stale old “Mission, Vision and Values” framework that’s typically neither inspiring nor memorable. Based on the metaphor of a three-stage rocket, PWI cuts through the jargon to yield tight, memorable, and compelling statements of “why we’re here,” “how we operate,” and “what it means for the world.” The three statements were developed in a facilitated workshop where senior leadership team members joined together to express our highest ideals in a manner that rallies both internal and external audiences.
Defining the Actions Necessary for Delivering a World-Class Experience
To make sure all of the above principles and messages were actionable within the organization, we defined a set of four key behaviors that leaders can model… and employees can emulate. Developed in a workshop with the entire leadership team, these behaviors – “Take Extreme Ownership” and “Collaborate Before We Escalate” are two examples – were designed to maximize communication and interactions across all acquired teams and locations to bring all DataBank team members together as one cohesive operating unit.Staying True to Ourselves
Finally, to ensure that all of this work is positively affirmed, we’ve developed a quarterly company-wide survey to measure the overall health of our culture and our adherence to the four key behaviors. This will allow us to determine whether we’re staying true to our ideals, where we’re getting better, and where we need improvement. Survey results will be unpacked in detail in quarterly leadership meetings and shared with the entire company so everyone can see how we’re doing.
The Keystone to Our Continued Success
At this point, it should be clear to all that we’ve invested heavily in truly understanding ourselves and defining the essential messages and behaviors that make DataBank an ideal partner for taking the worry out of managing mission-critical IT infrastructures. This is both our purpose on this planet and a goal against which we must continually make measurable progress.
According to Martynek, “If you ask me to identify the one single thing that is most critical to our success, my answer would be our corporate culture. It has the power to unify our team, drive our business, and set us apart in a sea of ‘vanilla’ data centers.” He adds, “It’s the cornerstone of our aspirations to truly be the ‘Data Center Evolved.’ And as we continue to grow through organic growth and M&A, our strong culture will be a key advantage in ensuring that we never lose sight of our purpose to support our customer’s mission critical data center requirements.”