This post is my reflection on company culture and the things that have been on my mind as a founder. You can read more about Oursky’s progress in this X’mas special post, where we recap our learnings and achievements for 2016.
Oursky has grown in several ways this year. Firstly, we welcomed 6 full-time staff to the company. We’re hiring in Hong Kong and Taipei. We’ve also celebrated many important life events for our team members. As our company has grown, we’ve constantly reiterated to support our team members to deliver top quality products through a lifestyle that works for them.
Honestly, though, this year’s been a challenge. Oursky’s growing team has challenged me to reflect on our company direction. I have questions that have to do with company culture that I’ve been thinking about all year and I’ll share them below.
Is the journey or the destination more important?
When I first started the company, my goal for making money was to re-invest funds into a company — or platform — for people who wanted to build meaningful products or create social impact. Some products would make money, but some didn’t have to. I also wanted to attract like-minded people into my team to build things, have fun, and share experiences with. The meals and jokes we shared are as important to me as the contracts we get. And for that reason, I’ve grown Oursky organically as a lifestyle business rather than a venture-backed company.
We didn’t start Oursky to make millions. We created a family based on shared values: a love of products, a commitment to quality, and the willingness to sacrifice a certain amount of wealth for a more balanced life. In these 8 years, this shared vision has attracted over 40 people to the company — people who like spending time with each other as much as they do making what they make.
Oursky has grown so much. And we’re continuing to grow. The company is running faster, but there are more deadlines to be met, more standards and process need to be set, and more communication procedures to set up to synchronize work. Thus, a result is that people have to work more and more. Is this momentum healthy? When I started the company, I valued the journey. But now that so many people have joined us on this journey, somehow I think the experience is no longer what it used to be. On the one hand, many colleagues still take a ping pong break, but I average maybe one lunch with my team a week now. If we are slowly trading our lifestyle, then should I be focusing instead on the destination? What is the destination that Oursky is going for?
What’s the critical mass for holacracy?
Oursky doesn’t have a hierarchy. We have an open office and have transparent and public chats. For the longest time, this is what worked for Oursky. This flat company structure is what attracted people to the company. I read Reinventing Organizations with much interest, but the ideas are a long-term process for us (I’ll share more as our company evolves). I think ultimately holacracy is a new form of organization that respects individual liberty and craftsmanship, so that everyone can be more creative and productive.
Oursky doesn’t need to keep growing for the sake of growing. However, we have business and we always need more talent to help meet demand. But at the company’s growth tipping point (we’re close to 50 staff), we have to decide what direction we want to take. What company do we want to be? If we keep growing, I think we will need to find a way to transition the company to preserve the values that make Oursky unique, while providing enough support infrastructure (from things like leave policies to project management); we will also need a new way to collaborate and communicate so we can avoid overhead and dependencies between teams; I will also need to adopt new skills to communicate our culture and vision well with the team.
Part of that company culture is also keeping Oursky true to its technically driven origins that myself, Rick and Roy started with. How do we keep building great top quality products and code we’re proud of while making Oursky agile and able to embrace new individuals and working styles? Even though we’re still articulating our answers, our team members have demonstrated they do share our core values in their day to day interactions.
I’m proud to share this journey with my team members. So much of our company culture is thanks to the contribution from my colleagues.