We've been making the case in the Brand to the Bone series that brand is culture, and that a healthy culture requires psychological safety, finding a "why," and keystone habits.
A keystone habit, by the way, is one that helps other good habits take hold. For an individual, it could be a seemingly insignificant activity like making the bed. But as New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg writes in his book The Power of Habit, "Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget."
And what works for individuals also works for business. Keystone habits can effect enormous change. In addition to creating small wins, they provide structures that help other good habits flourish and foster cultures where new values become ingrained. As Duhigg writes, "Keystone habits transform us by creating cultures that make clear the values that, in the heat of a difficult decision or a moment of uncertainty, we might otherwise forget."
It's worked at companies like Alcoa, IBM, and McKinsey. And Yesler.
The keystone habit that has redefined Yesler's culture
At Yesler, we strive to challenge the status quo in B2B by leading with results and redefining marketing along the way. That’s our why. To help us stay focused on it, we use a keystone habit known as the daily check-in (part of the agile management methodology, where it's called "scrum"). The check-in, or scrum, is a process used by teams to develop products or projects in “sprint” cycles to continuously improve quality, output, and responsiveness to changing business requirements.
In practice, team members check in with one another to briefly share what they're working on and what might be blocking their progress.
It's simple, but the genius is in the consistent application over time. Here are some of the benefits we've seen at Yesler:
- Better communication (and fewer emails). Reporting to the team bridges the communication gaps. Quick daily updates eliminate the need for status emails throughout the day, so we spend more time on actual work and less time fielding email.
- Psychological safety. Meeting face to face every day fosters shared understanding and creates a climate where the team feels safe to offer up solutions or ideas about how to enhance a project or evolve an approach.
- Accountability. In the check-in, there is no hierarchy. Team members are responsible for their own work, as well as asking other team members for information they need to complete that work.
- Transparency. Reporting to the team helps us catch more balls before they drop and helps keep our communication open and supportive.
Plus, we're having a lot more fun.
At Yesler, the structure of the daily check-in reinforces our company values and our integrated approach. The habit benefits our clients, too. Adopting and practicing the check-in allows us to offer inventive marketing strategies within client budgets and in ways that increase the efficiency of our service over the life of the relationship.
There's a less obvious benefit as well.
We often work with organizations where the marketing and sales departments are disconnected from each other and sometimes from the rest of the organization, when they would be more successful if they were integrated with the rest of the company and the customer experience. When we combine our integrated-marketing approach with agile practices to develop strategies and solutions for them, we become ardent advocates for tearing down the silos that hinder our clients’ success.
In other words, we show them how they can transform their business by changing a habit.
A keystone habit can help build a culture where people feel psychologically safe and foster a climate of trust, purpose, and innovation.
It's the kind of thing that just might help you realize your marketing investment. Or revolutionize your culture.
And by definition, your brand.