Joining Cable for the Operating System
Last year, like most of us, I was getting quite a few LinkedIn messages from companies about new role opportunities. To all of them, I politely responded that I was happy in my current role. And I was.
Then in October, I received a message from Natasha, the CEO of Cable, and was immediately drawn to it. This was a start up with 13 people and they had prioritised hiring a Head of People!
I’ve worked in start ups for a number of years and typically the Head of People role is covered by a founder, whilst juggling many other roles. It isn’t until the cracks start to show in the company culture, typically when the company reaches c40 employees, that hiring a dedicated and experienced Head of People becomes a priority. By this stage, it’s extremely difficult to unpick problems and reset the culture of the business.
Most founders will tell you that the culture of their business is the most important thing. So why is it that resources to build this aren’t seen as important as engineering resources, for example?
So, to be approached by a company who clearly put culture front and centre was refreshing and exciting to me.
Then I read the Operating System, a backbone to the culture of Cable. I’ve come across a lot of these, and even designed some myself, so it’s not difficult to separate the ‘box ticking exercises’ from the genuine article, and this very much read as the genuine article. I found myself really wanting to work at a company that held these principles. When I received the offer to join Cable (much to my excitement), I spoke to my Mum. I told her that the first principle in the Operating System is ‘Be Kind’ - “Take it, take it, take it!” was her advice.
It turns out I wasn’t unique in feeling like this. Everyone at Cable says that one of the primary reasons for joining was our Operating System and it is regularly cited by candidates as the reason they apply for jobs.
However, no matter how good any Operating System is, it’s important to revisit them, to check that they still make sense given the inevitable evolution a startup goes through, and to think about how we continue to hold each other accountable to them
In my second week at Cable we had our Q4 meetup, and we spent an afternoon discussing the Operating System. As an introduction to the session I outlined that an Operating System is important because it is crucial for us to have a culture and a way of working that makes us happy and impactful. In addition, we have the opportunity to set the tone of Cable’s culture for years to come.
I also made it clear what an Operating System is NOT! It is not a bunch of values that we’ve put together because that is what startups do.
Together, we then looked at the current set of Operating System Principles, and discussed:
- which ones resonated the most,
- which ones were hard to put into practice,
- which could or should be removed, and
- what, if any, should be added.
Making Some Changes
It was clear after our discussion session that, on the whole, we were still on the right track, but that some changes were needed. In particular, the team decided that:
- ‘Be Kind’ is our most important Principle, and definitely reflects the culture within Cable.
- ‘Be Curious’ and ‘Aim to Improve’ felt very similar and it was hard to distinguish between them. We decided to merge them, with an emphasis on challenging assumptions and being humble.
- The “fun” in how we work was missing.
- How we champion ourselves and others wasn’t emphasised enough.
- The honesty that we show at all times needs to be reflected more prominently.
- There should be more of a focus on responsibility, ownership and adaptability.
So to that end, as well as the small changes we’ve made to reflect the above, I am excited to introduce our new Principle - Empower through Responsibility!
You can find our updated and, we think, improved, Operating System here:
At Cable, our Operating System is extremely important to us, which I hope is clear. It’s at the foundation of how we work and treat each other. I feel inspired, lucky and privileged to work for a company that takes this so seriously, and with an incredible team who are dedicated to building such a strong culture.
But our Operating System will always be a work in progress! By creating a safe environment where everyone feels comfortable voicing their opinions and ideas, and by actively listening to feedback, I am confident we can continue to improve it.
Creating, iterating on and embedding an Operating System can be hard and time consuming, and I hope you’ve found this useful. Please do feel free to get in touch with any questions or suggestions.