Culture and Values

Having grown up on the public service side of libraries, I am always on the lookout for examples of organizations and companies who can articulate a service culture.  My latest discovery is, founded in 1999 “…with the goal of becoming the premiere destination for online shoes.”  Although I have never been a customer of, I am surrounded by folks who swear by them!

Delivering Happiness
Delivering Happiness:  A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.
A book by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

According to Tony Hsieh, the Zappos CEO, “…our belief is that if get the culture right, most of the other stuff—like great customer service, or building a great long-term brand, or passionate employees and customers—will happen naturally on its own.”

That culture is defined by 10 core values:

1.    Deliver WOW Through Service

2.    Embrace and Drive Change

3.    Create Fun and a Little Weirdness

4.    Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded

5.    Pursue Growth and Learning

6.    Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication

7.    Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit

8.    Do More with Less

9.    Be Passionate and Determined

10.  Be Humble

People who have worked with me know that “sparkle” and “dazzle” are two terms I will inevitably use in a public service conversation.  Sparkle describes the active engagement and genuine interest of the service provider in the transaction and dazzle is the end goal.  It is not enough to meet the information need; it is that added extra that delights the customer.  People who love public service show it, are passionate about it, and personally learn and grow in the process.

When was the last time you were dazzled?

8 thoughts on “Culture and Values

  1. Oh yeah. Zappos is great, but frankly…I think we overdo the whole “wow factor” idea.
    One of the things I’ve observed over the years of delivering great services in libraries is that when an infrastructure is REALLY good, people don’t always notice. When excellence and great attitude becomes part of the culture, our patrons’ expectations are elevated, and if we are lucky, they sometimes remember to tell us.

    ..which, of course, is as it should be. But the danger with administrations going too far down the “wow” factor road, is that we cannot constantly expect to see the results. It helps if we as administrators accept qualitative rather than quantitative evidence, and if our assessment programs reflect that.

    But beyond the wow statement in number one, it is a fine articulation of good service.

  2. I have worked for NARA for over two decades. There are still times, I admit, that I am wow’d and dazzled–but these instances normally involve only our records: a Thomas Jefferson document, a cool NASA letter, etc. Yet as I try to dust off my memory cells, I don’t recall any time since 1995 that I have been wow’d or dazzled by anything else. I am amazed and relieved when I find someone who can actually help me resolve a problem or issue involving the hiring process or procurement or something along the administrative lines. It never ceases to amaze me how we as an agency tend to hinder rather than help each other. Our customer service to the public is fine, could it be better, sure–but our internal beauocratic nonsense that is interpreted every which way til Tuesday bogs us down…way down.

  3. Thanks Wanting to be Dazzled–you’re spot on and I’d add that rather than focusing on customer service and the public, NARA management needs to focus on employee well-being and happiness. I think that we do the best that we can with limited resources to serve the public including the “Partners” ie.

    How about focusing more resources on NARA staff, many of whom are overworked and lack the manpower or materials needed to do their jobs? A perfect example are the digital projects and those involved with these unwieldy and seemingly never-ending projects. It is not realistic to stretch staff and resources to the limit trying to digitize millions of pension files (that will take decades to complete at the current pace) at the expense of other important NARA work.

  4. I guess I’ll need to try them out. I have never used them either but sounds good.

    “How about focusing more resources on NARA staff, many of whom are overworked and lack the manpower or materials needed to do their jobs?” Good point B. Most of the time the staff tends to be overlooked UNLESS you have the right leadership. A manager or someone higher up that is able to make things happen. This just doesn’t get done very often.

  5. Having read the new changes in employee awards, I would be wow’d and dazzled (and simply amazed and down right impressed) if there was a NARA initiative stating that the awards would still be intact for all staff except at the Senior and SES levels–at least for the rest of the year. The message that the awards for upper management is curtailed to 5% of aggregate salaries but the rest of the employees can only receive 1%….is not a good message at this time …Think about all of the employees who work very hard to obtain these extra monetary awards! Think about this message: NARA cares for its employees!

  6. Not sure if you’ll get a pingback but I touched on this post in passing in a post I put up at Nixonara this morning: I don’t think paragraphing works here in the combox but I’ll try anyway. Stubborn is my middle name.

    @Wanting to be Dazzled, FWIW, my experiences have shown that the contributions of non-SES often are observable by a number of people internally. When I worked at NARA, we had a quantitative performance management system. I knew if I hit my targets for a daily, weekly, monthly, number of Nixon tape reels reviewed, number of edits made, and if the quality of my work was good, I would pretty well guarantee getting an Outstanding or a Highly Successful. The contributions of SES often are not as visible, what they deal with often may be known to a very small number of people. Moreover, a lot of it is of such a nature, due to risk factors and other elements, that it can’t be talked about or widely shared or known internally.

    That said, I do see your point. One year when I worked at NLNP, I was told I was getting an Outstanding but that I wouldn’t get the small cash award that usually accompanied that because the pot of award money available was so small, the director wanted to give a big cash award to the secretary, instead. I wasn’t happy at the time but later came to see that she made less money than I, it was wrong for me to focus on myself, and he was right to do it that way. Of course, we had been through a RIF, as well. Bottom line: management and senior management needs to find ways to balance these things right and to be sensitive to the complex elements that go into varying reax. Some people forget what life was like on the line as they advance; others don’t.

  7. Just to make it clear, I don’t know the current NARA policy on cash awards/bonuses. I don’t work there any longer. My comments merely speak to two elements. One, that the higher you are in rank, the fewer number of people there are who know about everything with which you deal and how you do it. Some catch glimpses from below, others for above. When you’re a line employee, more of your work is visible so there’s greater inherent transparency. And two, misunderstandings and misperceptions can arise easily. I’ve been subject and contributed to both in the past.

  8. Good point B. Most of the time the staff tends to be overlooked UNLESS you have the right leadership. A manager or someone higher up that is able to make things happen. This just doesn’t get done very often.

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