20220708 - AOTB2022 - Keynote - One for all and all for one - What does culture really mean?, Vimla Appadoo

by Thierry de Pauw on


Keynote - One for all and all for one: What does culture really mean?, Vimla Appadoo, @ThatGirlVim

Chief Culture Officer, HoneyBadger

  • HoneyBadger: culture design, focus on diversity and inclusion
  • Culture Shift

- introvert: the reason I put this on my first slide is I am a big believer in empathetic design, I want to set the stage and put my vulnerability out
- I'm a new mom
- I'm very nervous

  • @kirschi_: #AOTB2022 @Agileonthebeach @ThatGirlVim like so many speakers, going out of herself to get the message out in the world. Here’s to inspiring #introverts https://t.co/NnUsGCl9gj

What on earth has happened over the past 2 years?

pandemic -> we went through a lot of trauma

protests -> black lives matters protests

climate crisis -> the lockdown show how much pollution there was, all of a sudden we did not hear planes and we heard birth singing

plus a war, energy crisis, fuel poverty, rising cost of living, ...

What we learned?

  1. we are able to adapt when we need to

  2. the UK has a problem with race

  3. the status quo is not accepted anymore

Technology fails the global majority every day.
because the people that make the technology are not diverse enough or the minorities in the room do not have the power to change that

  • @kirschi_: #AOTB2022 @Agileonthebeach @ThatGirlVim technology fails the global majority everyday #AI and #ML are biased because of the lack of #diversity in #tech https://t.co/Thwb6nIm68
  1. because of that, we have a huge opportunity to change

The extent of one's courage or cowardice cannot be measured in ordinary times.
All is revealed when something happens.

-- Ben Horowitz, ...

It is culture.

-> culture is everything that makes you, you.

-> it is those values that determine your behaviour.

How culture works in the marketplace?

It's how they [employees] behave when no one is looking

-- Ben Horowitz, ...

that's why things got better once everyone was working from home

Business Culture: is set by the founder, the CEO, how they behave (if they do insane hours, it sets the expectation)
influences the Team Culture
and influences Your Culture (how do I fit into the Team Culture)

Inflexible leadership + Flexible employees -> cultural collapse
= decisions happen with little discussion, e.g. they can leave if they want, we are a big organisation, enough other people want to work here (consulting companies, play hard and work hard mantra, no room for cultural innovation)
-> there is not really a culture, it is about keep working
the business is strong, they make money, they are doing well at the expense of employees

Inflexible leadership + Inflexible employees -> fixed
= more of the same, e.g. this works for us, why change?
-> dinosaur mentality

Flexible leadership + Inflexible employees -> transformation
= change is hard, e.g. this is new let's try it!
stuck in trying something new all the time
all of the changes come from the top, employees just want to do their job
too much change
most of us are in this situation
top down approach without listening to the teams

Flexible leadership + Flexible employees -> adapt
= change is little and often, e.g. the team are saying they need this, let's try
lot's of small experiments
this is the sweet spot, this is where we want to get to

  • cultural collapse = culture doesn't exist
  • fixed = never change
  • transform = change is unnecessarily hard
  • adapt = change is relatively easy

  • @kirschi_: #AOTB2022 @Agileonthebeach @ThatGirlVim insightful 2x2 matrix on org culture and finding the sweet spot. Flipping the script from the personal to the team to the business culture https://t.co/1Qbcf1JEUZ

How do we get to adapt?

we need to flip the script
we need to put ourselves at the heart of the culture
use ourselves, Your Culture, to inform the Team Culture to then build the Business Culture

culture does not need to change, it needs to adapt to individual culture

Core & Flex
- you have to know your core -> take the things that make you, you
=> that's why I put my vulnerabilities at the start of this presentation

  • know your flex: the things I can be flexible about => the things that make other people comfortable, give and take in order to help others feel comfortable

it is only when I stopped drinking that I realised how many business decisions are taken at the pub after work
hold on, we should stop this as XYZ is not present

when there is a conflict between someones Core and my flex, this is actually a positive conflict -> it allows to have a conversation and to adapt

How to bring the individual up?

we need to understand how to be an ally

User Manual -> manual of me
-> who am I

Team Values:
- what you have in common but more importantly what we don't have in common
-> influences team behaviours

Team Canvas

how to get there
-> we need to start creating safe places
this is not about being able to say anything
making sure people feel safe when they have questions

celebrate micro cultures
-> different teams have different people -> different cultures vs homogeneous business culture

over communicate to other teams
- this is our culture, this is how we work and how we get things done -> team leadership becomes very important

=> this is how we get to Business Culture

Culture Fit vs Culture Add
- culture fit: adopting people that might be diverse but with the same background, think the same
- culture add: specifically, look at diversity, think differently, not the same universities, different backgrounds -> challenge the culture

=> start reviewing our hiring process

thinking about who is on our hiring panel, are we asking the same questions to all candidates, do we do blind hiring, ...
otherwise, our unconscious bias will influence the hiring
ex. women are less likely to apply for jobs when the salary is not mentioned

  • @kirschi_: #AOTB2022 @Agileonthebeach @ThatGirlVim how are we hiring? What is inviting or uninviting for differences and diversity, what what would we change about it? https://t.co/p4OyfyZknU

collect data
- who is leaving, when are they leaving, ...
-> you can't solve a problem you don't know exists

  • @kirschi_: #AOTB2022 @Agileonthebeach @ThatGirlVim there is a closing window of opportunity created by the pandemic. It’s up to us to make sure we don’t let it slip https://t.co/0CBZdCLxfr

What does culture really mean?

creating an environment that helps us change the world!


diversity is important for business!
we are doing this because it is the right thing to do
but it is also a good thing to do for the business
you will attract more people that will use your product

Business Values are important
e.g. we are not bad, we do good work
but they need to be flexible enough to allow Teams and Individuals to fill in the values
e.g. this is what good work means to us, I can do good work when I start at 10 am