Among some of the most thought-provoking career advice that I received in 2014 was to imagine not the job I hoped to have in the future, but the company I hoped to work for; a company whose goals, values and culture align with my own. Time will tell whether this was advice that I would pass on, but the logic is difficult to argue with.
A company whose ethos I find inspirational, even as an outsider, is Automattic, whose founder, Matt Mullenweg, was the original developer of WordPress, the software which powers this blog—and as of January 2015, over 23% of the top 10 million websites. Matt recently shared his company’s creed on his blog, and it encapsulates in its brevity and discerning use of metaphor, everything which a modern company should aspire to:
I will never stop learning. I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me. I know there’s no such thing as a status quo. I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers. I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything. I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company. I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day. Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.
Indeed, many of these values are as suitable for an individual as they are an organisation. I find it refreshing that, rather than speaking generally about what ‘we’ as an organisation should aspire to, Automattic’s creed addresses the reader in the first-person singular, acknowledging that shared values start with the individual and not the collective.
In my experience, too many organisations resort to the use of vague, generalised adjectives to describe their values and culture, or produce spiffy diagrams that unfortunately raise more questions than answers. I’m a strong advocate for goal-setting, and taking the time to articulate the values that an organisation aspires to—provided that those goals and values are actionable and unambiguous.