This year, we ran a series of internal workshops and activities aimed to align and promote a better understanding of our core values V-CEPAT, and to help Titaners translate words into behaviours. December is a traditional time of the year for reflection, and so in the last week of the year, we look back on the story behind the V-CEPAT project, some lessons we learnt along the way and how we can work to improve on our efforts to strengthen our company culture – in a chat with Jasmine, our People and Operations Manager!
- Let us start from the beginning, on how it all came about. What was the initial purpose of the V-CEPAT project?
After taking up the role of General Manager, Tomas was travelling often between different offices and noticed that as our headcount increased, our company culture was beginning to get diluted. It was also at that time that I attended the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) conference in Osaka last year and one of the sessions I attended was about culture transformation and leadership development. I really liked their approach as they provided a simple and practical facilitation process, and focused on training internal facilitators for implementation, so when Tomas made a comment about the dilution of our culture, I had some ideas ready to explore, and we did – with external consultants to ultimately come up with the V-CEPAT culture project which included workshops based around each of our 6 core values.
It is somewhat of a happy problem actually, when we have a growing company and there are more and more people coming in with different backgrounds. How we actually work to sustain our core values which brought us to where we are – that is what we have to work on continuously. And not just with existing Titaners, but also helping newcomers to learn about our culture.
Although or maybe because of the fact that “culture” can be a rather broad term, we chose to start with Titansoft’s core values because they serve as guiding principles for how we work.
Especially so in a self-managing environment, it is important to have a common understanding for us to work effectively as a team, to support decision making and improve internal communication.
- Since the commencement of the project in April, how far do you think we have come in achieving the initial purpose?
I think we are on the right direction but it would take more time to see a tangible outcome, maybe in 2 to 3 years. After all, values are manifested in everyday behaviours. Right now, there are subtle differences we have made – amongst Titaners, there is deeper understanding of what V-CEPAT is about, which we see from an increased integration of values into conversations and decision making processes. Also, as we reworked our promotion panels and candidate interviews to include conversations revolving around our values and culture, there is an increased awareness as they become more naturally ingrained in our working processes.
- Were there any surprises or lessons learnt along the way?
Definitely. It is very important to have the involvement and support of the management, especially the GM to place priority on the project. It really helps the success of the project to have him talk about it on different occasions. Even though we have a flat hierarchy relative to other software development companies, at times such as these on projects involving company-wide involvement, commitment from the top management is helpful in aligning priorities across the company, similar to when we first embarked on our Agile transformation.
- Of the 6 values, which do you relate to the most personally, and why?
I have two! Continuous learning and emergent leadership.
Having been working for years in an environment where continuous growth is emphasised on, the company motto to “Never Stop Improving” has become part of how I live. It is a fast-paced environment in Titansoft which can be stressful at times – if you do not learn and grow, you can be left behind. But such is the reality of life, and luckily it aligns with my personal belief, to continuously improve on my capacity so I can better influence others and manage the department more effectively.
As for emergent leadership, on some level it coincides with my personality – I like to meddle so I am not afraid to play the “bad guy” in offering my suggestions and feedback on areas for improvements when I see how certain things can be better done. For example, when I notice people regularly coming in late for one department’s weekly double-link sync up meetings, and no one has addressed the issue, I brought it up and had a conversation with the organiser of the meeting, sharing my observations and ideas.
- Now that the workshops spanning 6 months are completed, what are some future plans relating to building of culture in the SG office?
We will continue collecting and curating more stories of Titaners’ positive behaviours and share at company level. This is to create positive reinforcement and recognize those positive behaviours. In addition, we have an idea inspired from a conversation with a candidate who shared that his current company holds regular townhall meetings – where management would address areas of concerns from employees and share how some important decisions are made as a way to applying transparency. So we definitely have plans for the future on other culture building activities.
- In reflection, what are some areas of improvement we could work on if we were to do this all over again in the future?
This is the first time we have attempted such a project and along the way in true Titansoft style, we inspect and adapt based on new insights every month to tweak our approach for the next month. After the conclusion of the workshops, the culture facilitators held a retrospective session after the workshops and surfaced some feedback which we will learn from for the future:
- Revising tools designed by external consultants so Titaners are better able to connect with the materials used for each workshop
- Exploring methods other than workshops to convey and strengthen the meaning of our core values
- Facilitator to follow up on actions to be taken by participants, collected from workshops
- Proactively collecting stories from Titaners to share within the company instead of assuming people would be actively sharing their stories
- Creation of a specific, memorable story for each core value so all Titaners will have the same understanding on the definitions of each values and speak the same language
- Getting more involvement and commitment from managers in the workshops and in the project overall
In all, the V-CEPAT project is a good initiative which brought about various positive impacts. On a surface level, it provided us with content for branding purposes and on a deeper level, there were more staff engagement and discussions about the culture of Titansoft. It was also an avenue for us to recognise Titaners who showcased our values. We also sat down to reflect on “what it means to be a Titaner” – an important question indeed!