Why We Threw Out One of Our Core Values

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Company values are important. They set the tone for how we interact with colleagues, customers and business partners. They define expectations and lay the groundwork for how we go about meeting goals. But most importantly, they give employees guidelines that can be used while making important decisions.

 When Gravie started in November 2013, we established four key values:

  • Remove Obstacles
  • No Jerk Policy
  • Reasonable People do Reasonable Things
  • Everybody Owns Everything

For a while, all four values were relevant and exercised by Gravie employees, but then a funny thing happened. As Gravie continued to grow, the pace at which projects were being completed began to slow. But why? We decided to explore this odd phenomenon. It turns out there were too many cooks in the kitchen. Employees were taking Everybody Owns Everything very literally and as we grew and had more decisions to make, what was once possible as a ten-person company was no longer realistic. Everybody Owns Everything wasn’t working for us as a core value anymore. 

We still believed the idea behind the value was valid – that our best work is done when everyone feels like they belong to all of the company and are curious about how all the different parts fit together, versus being confined just to the narrow department they belong. But clearly, we needed a different way to express that thought. So at an all employee meeting in February 2016, Gravie CEO, Abir Sen removed the value from the wall in its frame and comically smashed it to smithereens (OK, he didn’t really smash it, but this adds dramatic effect). He then put forth the challenge to come up with a new value, which would be revealed at our next all employee meeting.

Gravie founders wanted the new value to continue to encourage involvement and inter-department curiosity, without making employees take ownership of everything, which was wasting valuable time and making roles unclear. Weeks passed and a handful of ideas were brought to the table. And then we came up with Ask Why. It sounds so simple, but asking “why” opens a whole new world of possibilities while at the same time, helping us avoid nonsensical processes and procedures. So after some discussion and a few modifications a new value was born: Why? Think. Ask. Explain.

Curiosity is a shared trait among Gravie employees. In fact, it’s one of our core competencies so the value Why? Think. Ask. Explain is a natural fit. 

As companies grow and evolve, their values may need to change to better support goals, processes and culture. All Gravie employees are stockholders in the company so in some ways, everybody does own everything, but it’s no longer relevant to how we function as a business. As a startup in the ever-changing world of healthcare, being dynamic is vital to our success and asking “why” and being curious supports that.

Topics: Insider, Company Culture, Gravie, Startup Culture

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