When creating a Manifesto for your company the goal not to “create a manifesto” but to reveal the strengths of the values within the company in a way that decreases the number of complex decisions needing to be made day-to-day.
The manifesto will be “the book” (more or less a page) of reason that can lead a team without the need for specific leaders to be present (and even help prep the next generation of leaders to form in the same vein.)
Picture this: A team of army rangers are falling back in the middle of an amazonian battle field. They realize one of their platoon members went missing while under fire. What do they do? Less organized soldiers would scatter under this pressure and lose their head. Should it be “Every man for themselves!”, or “Let’s hide it out until morning”. Luckily this group of rangers know that there is one core value that prevails in situations like this: “never leave a soldier behind”. – Boom, decision made. They spend their time devising a plan to find him first and foremost (no matter the hurdles, it will be resolved) and work out the other tangentials for the mission based on that ad-hoc plan.
Values are great and help create strategy, but as importantly when things go wrong values help keep the bigger picture moving along even when the current battles make that difficult to understand. Plans fail, but values do not.
More practically speaking the battles on a tech companies floor are less tragic, but battles nonetheless. Imagine a moment where a poorly designed widget is backend-ready and functional. The discussion comes up around the pros and cons of deploying something that doesn’t look good, but is ready to ship for testing. The debate could rage on, but with a core manifesto that decision is already made: if the core value says design is key to our tests – then the decision is made and the time is spent planning on executing that value; if the core value says release when ready and iterate – again the decision is made.
Those decisions shape a company and should not change week-to-week, problem-to-problem, or day-by-day from department to department. They shape outcomes and the character of a company through a decision tree that is easy to repeat. Consistent and efficient decision making is more important than re-assessing the perfect decision for the situation each and every time it comes up. The written word is amazing at facilitating that.
Of course we all have great thoughts and your company has awesome values already, but having them written down is the difference between an interesting legend shared by some and a religion followed by many.
As for my suggestions regarding the setting for how a document can be built as a team here are some thoughts.
- Make sure people feel heard (i.e. right down every idea)
- Help filter out laws that promote restrictions (which end up being things people feel reprimanded for doing) and turn them into concept that create direction and productivity to help people grow, expand, and focus. It is a document of supportiveness.
- Use it to help give people clarity in situations that need tie breakers, or rules of thumb. For example, “future value does not trump current value” has saved our team from missing out on what we have while over planning for something we do not.
- Be clear on what an item suggested means when it is written (often times one person’s perspective on what “awareness” can be, for instance, is different than another’s) Be descriptive.
- Find a/the person that matches the essence of what a manifiesto item describes. They will most likely be the champion of that thought and help keep it alive and well. Find passion in the people and you will also find the strength in the doc.
I believe once the fundamental concepts are solidified into the manifesto it becomes a spine for current, and as importantly, new employees that come in so they can quickly latch onto and adopt the companies process/thinking as it expands in size.
There will be debate over the items presented, and debate is good. As such, it may also be a good idea to nail down some key words that keep the conversation on track to what we believe the manifesto points should adhere to.
The words I propose are:
If an item does not instill many of these words, for instance, then the item may be off track.