As flexible working becomes the norm and 345 Technology continues to grow, it’s crucial for us to maintain a culture that upholds our core values – Treat People Right, Do Things Properly and Make A Difference. As our director, Paul Brown, wrote in his earlier blog, “We have strong ethics and shared values and we’re not afraid to be honest with clients. That’s the glue that keeps us together.”
So how do we turn those words into actions and how do we stick to those values when we’re working under pressure on complex projects? Well, we think it’s all about how we interpret those values in our day-to-day behaviour and attitude.
Working to our core values
One way to live out the value of treating someone right is to act towards them with respect.
RESPECT is demonstrated in the way that our three directors speak to each other to employees and to clients. There is also an implicit respect for our colleagues’ software engineering skillset. We take on tough jobs, so we aim to hire the best.
Respect is also demonstrated in the way that we avoid ‘geek speak’ when we’re talking to clients who do not have a technical background, while making it clear that we understand the business challenges that they are trying to address.
We want our colleagues to commit to doing their best work, so we respect software-engineers’ specialisms and seek projects that suit their skills rather than force-fitting them into projects. We publicly praise colleagues for a job well done.
Putting our trust in our people is another cornerstone of treating them right.
TRUST is shown in the way that we allow colleagues to work remotely, or in the office, it’s the quality of their work that counts. We implicitly trust our colleagues’ talent, experience and expertise and this builds as teams gel and colleagues learn that they can rely on each other.
Our mission is to create teams of highly-skilled professionals who genuinely like, respect and trust each other, so that they work together to solve client’s problems more effectively.
With a core value like doing things properly, one powerful starting point is to act with integrity, especially when the going gets tougher.
INTEGRITY is shown in the way that we win new business, how we engage with clients and the way that we deliver on our promises.
A recent Harvard Business Review article cites business ethics experts who believe that moral character can be shaped in the workplace and that employees can be taught to act with integrity, just like they would learn any other business skill. My own view is that people have a moral baseline and that is then shaped by their managers, colleagues and professional experiences. When interviewing I can quickly get a sense of whether a candidate’s character fits our company culture.
We’re honest with clients, even when that costs us money and we’re not afraid to say no to projects that have unrealistic deliverables, timescales or budgets. We’re selective about the work that we take on so that we can live up to our mission of doing our best work for good clients and creating code that makes a real difference to their organisations.
Maintaining integrity under pressure
Respect, trust and integrity are fine ideals when everything is going swimmingly, but how do we ensure that we stick to our guns when the going gets tough?
PROCESSES PROMOTE INTEGRITY
At 345 Technology we ensure that projects get off to the best start. Our commercial teams are honest with clients about the time, skillsets and budgets that are required to deliver the best solution for their needs. This avoids the situation where software engineers are put under undue pressure to deliver a ‘quick fix’, which undermines their professional integrity.
The Statement of Work drawn up by our commercial team clearly communicates what has been agreed and what we have committed to deliver.
Accountability is an important part of acting with integrity. We do what we say we’re going to do. This is supported by processes such as timesheets, to ensure that clients are only billed for the work done, and daily stand ups to update and align everyone on the team and ensure that deadlines are met.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Part of a respectful business relationship is keeping clients informed of progress and problems. There is no point in sweeping issues under the carpet because they will only re-emerge later. It’s better to discuss issues as early as possible so that an acceptable resolution can be found.
High integrity behaviour has to be continuously demonstrated by the management team so that employees feel empowered to make the right choices. As an example, the technical lead on a project has the responsibility for quality of delivery and is accountable to the client. We never put junior developers in a position where they are having difficult conversations that should be handled by their boss.
If clients do need to add to their original project scope, we’ll have an honest conversation about what can and cannot be achieved within the time and budget allowed. If we’ve assessed a project and told the client that it requires 5 weeks’ work and they can only allow us 3 weeks, we’ll sit down with them and revisit the scope to understand what is feasible within that timeframe, without compromising our quality.
Equally, if we’ve assessed that a project requires ten days’ work and our software engineers manage to achieve the desired result in 8 days, then we’ll be honest with the client and charge them for 8 days’ work. We don’t inflate bills.
To enable continuous improvement, we regularly gather the team to review what could have been done better. The resulting observations may be actioned; escalated to the directors; or presented back to clients.
As leadership coach, Tom Hanson PhD, has written, “Creating a culture of integrity and accountability not only improves effectiveness, it also generates a respectful, enjoyable and life-giving setting in which to work.”
TESTING BUILDS TRUST
While trust is one of our core values, it’s not blind trust. We thoroughly test our code to make sure that it works and scales. We test to ensure that software integrates with existing systems. We test so that we know that our code can handle exceptions. We test so that we know that if an error occurs the software will recover gracefully. We test to ensure that software doesn’t crash if it’s loaded in an unexpected way. These are all good engineering practices, supported by clear business processes.
To summarise, acting with integrity simplifies business relationships and helps us deliver complex projects that we’re proud of.
The company founders have decades of software engineering experience and expertise. However, they show mutual professional respect and possess the humility to recognise where other members of the team can complement their skills. The values of the directors underpin the decisions and actions that they take each day and this flows through the rest of the organisation.
To quote poet and author Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
We don’t view our colleagues as commodities, we hire the whole person. We want our software engineers to feel appreciated for doing their best for clients, so that our clients feel respected and valued.