The GlobalNOC OS – Vision, Strategy, Culture

When we started the GRP, we learned very quickly that we needed to define some foundational concepts about the GlobalNOC that we could use to guide our decisions.  For example, we have a goal to become indispensable to each client’s success.We believe this isn’t about accomplishing a few handpicked improvements, it’s about becoming the kind of place where everyone in the GlobalNOC is doing more everyday to help each client. But, what does that success mean? What do we do that’s most valuable?  How should we all behave each day to make this happen?

So, over the past few weeks we’ve looked at where we want to go as an organization; who we serve and what our strategy is to serve them; and what kind of a culture we want to develop.  Together, this aligned set of mission, vision, strategy, and culture defines the core GlobalNOC “Operating System.”  This “GlobalNOC OS” is the system that will operate mostly unseen, but which will also guide everything we do.

What we mean by “culture”

Out of all of these topics, culture was the most challenging.  An organization’s culture is so deeply ingrained, that it’s hard to verbalize or even conceptualize.  As one of the people on the team put it, it’s like a fish trying to describe the water they swim in.  It’s everywhere. It affects us very deeply; whenever there’s no explicit rule, it’s culture that drives decisions. But it’s invisible.

To make this more difficult, the available thinking on organizational culture is all over the place and often contradictory. But we did find some helpful information.  We took the most guidance from Edgar Schein, who broke organizational culture down into 3 things: visible behaviors, rites, and rules; espoused values; and deep underlying mindsets, assumptions, and philosophy. Schein says that instead of trying to find universally “good” or “bad” cultural traits, an organization should ensure the culture is coherent (that the stated values and behaviors match the actual underlying assumptions) and fit the needs of the organization.

Our strategy was simple: explicitly define the most critical GlobalNOC values that will make us a great place to work and most effective for our clients.  

At the end of multiple meetings and discussions, we arrived at 5 values (or “rules”) that will define the GlobalNOC way going forward.

The GlobalNOC Way

Rule 1: We start with the client

  • We view ourselves and the world through the eyes of our clients.
  • We’re sharply focused on helping each client achieve their individual definition of success. For each client, we prioritize intimacy and responsiveness.
  • We are problem-solvers; we look for ways to say “yes, we can help”.
  • We are part of our community, not a vendor to it.
  • We value helpfulness to our clients over following policy that’s unintentionally getting in the way.

Rule 2: We (only) succeed together

  • We celebrate individual achievement, but value our collective success more.
  • We are each personally responsible for the success of the GlobalNOC; we all look at the big picture beyond our own job or team.
  • Our culture of service extends to each other – we take the time to help our colleagues.  
  • We “pick up the trash”. When we see something that needs to get done and we’re in a good position to help, we help – even when it’s not our normal job.

Rule 3: Progress > perfection

  • We tend toward action, even when there is ambiguity and uncertainty.
  • We make big impacts through small changes at high frequency.
  • We consider risk, but don’t fear it.  Change includes risk; this is ok. 
  • Changes that don’t work out are lessons, not failures.

Rule 4: We’re driven for individual mastery and collective improvement

  • We are proud of our accomplishments, but never satisfied.  We relentlessly seek improvement.
  • We embrace scale as our path to improved impact. 
  • We value an exploring mindset and seek ways to learn more and deepen our expertise
  • We are each curious and motivated to master the skills that will help our clients, our community, and ourselves.

Rule 5: We’re open

  • We default to open and active sharing of our information with our clients, community, and each other; we share unless we have a compelling reason not to.
  • We default to trust in others.  We assume the best in them and behave in ways that build their trust in us.
  • We know we don’t have all the answers; we believe there is something to learn from everyone.  
  • We believe our success depends on skillful, frequent, and constructive feedback. We offer it candidly and with empathy and we ask for it from others.    

This will almost certainly evolve as we communicate and put these to the test.  We’ll find some of this to be conceptualized wrong, communicated wrong, or missing some key insights.  Not only that, but defining these rules is just the easy first step.  We now have to begin the hard work of living by these, and internalizing them.  We have them on the page, now we need to get them into the water we all swim in.

Director, Engineering