• Joe Vandervest

Culture and Honor Code

Updated: Dec 18, 2018

Last Wednesday - I ran into a progressive company in the least likely of businesses: metal stamping.

I attended a FaceBook live at the  the Roost, a local coworking center.  Two guests visited and shared information about their businesses and endeavors. (more below)

PTM Corporation's Code of Honor

One of the guests was Donna Russell-Kuhr, CEO of PTM Corporation in Fair Haven, Michigan.  Donna shared how her organization hired a facilitator 4 years ago to help them develop and focus on a 5 year plan.  The truly intriguing part of this process was when Donna shared how the entire company came together to develop a “Mission Statement” and “Code of Honor”.

I know, I hear you yawning already. If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you start getting a bit jaded about the “Mission / Vision” thing.  Not so fast! This is different. The process wasn’t top down, but bottom up.

Donna spoke with conviction, pride and clarity about the results of the process.  As she explained the inclusive, transparent and focused way they created these - one thing came through to me:  the process may have been more powerful than the results. Like an Alloyed Team, the process of self-evaluation and organizational introspection seems to have been a crucible experience of a kind.

I was struck by how proud of her entire team she seemed.  The PTM team actively contributed over many months to the process of defining what culture they want to build, develop, maintain and thrive within.

It was an “operating system” of core principles for their organization.  Not just another list of aspirations tacked to a wall somewhere. 

While you can watch it on the Facebook live recording, her in-person explanation carried real power. I felt the passion, pride and affection she has for her team and the hard-work they went through to come up with this.

Operating Guide and Decision Algorithm

Like a decision algorithm, I understood that the entire company uses this Code to make decisions and self-regulate how they operate each day.

This is the kind of spirit around culture that teams and organizations should work to create. If you take a look at their Code you’ll see how clear and easy it is to understand.

We should all strive to have a handful of clear, easy to understand, non-business jargon laden, core principles around which we can empower our teams.  Decisions suddenly stop becoming about ego and power, but about doing the right thing according to the vision and the operating principles. The decision algorithm.

Core principles defining “who we are” and that are created by all team members, can be a hugely powerful ethos around which to empower employees, focus activities, and encourage engagement.

Our Culture Code?

So where are Campbell Tech Solutions’ core principles?  Hm, we have them. Or at least I like to think that we do. But we haven’t documented them. We should.

We have our tagline that serves as an initial core principle - “services, not stuff”.  It conveys a focus on getting stuff done for clients, not selling systems, online services, etc.  But - we certainly should do more in this area. A tech company should develop a Culture Code so that new employees, clients, and all team members understand our guiding principles.  

A short, clear, and meaningful set of guiding principles or Culture Code becomes an algorithm. Each team member uses it to make decisions, keeps their daily operations within these principles, and  encourages one another to do so.


Donna Russell-Kuhr, CEO, PTM Corporation - http://www.crainsdetroit.com/awards/notable-women-manufacturing/3489567/Donna-Russell-Kuhr

PTMs Mission and Code of Honor - http://www.ptmcorporation.com/about-us/mission-statement/

4 Impediments to Nurturing A Feedback-Rich Culture -  Joanna Vahlsing - https://www.techwell.com/techwell-insights/2018/05/4-impediments-nurturing-feedback-rich-culture

4 Inflection Points of Company Culture - Brian Halligan - https://thinkgrowth.org/the-4-inflection-points-of-company-culture-bc801aa57cbb

The HubSpot Culture Code - https://www.slideshare.net/HubSpot/the-hubspot-culture-code-creating-a-company-we-love

Hubspot - 7 Operating Principles Slide - https://www.slideshare.net/HubSpot/the-hubspot-culture-code-creating-a-company-we-love/17-THE_CULTURE_CODE1_We_commit - The explanations are worth a read as well.