From the Editor

Michael Sliwinski — №28 with Preston Ni

As we are just about to meet again in person at our Nozbe reunion and spend several fantastic days together, I have been thinking lately of Nozbe more as a group of people than as a business. I always try to do so, of course. :) But this time it’s lead me to some reflection on our organizational culture.

What is “corporate culture” anyway?

My favorite explanation is the one by Ravasi and Schultz, who say that “organizational culture is a set of shared assumptions that guide what happens in organizations by defining appropriate behavior for various situations.” And so, to my way of thinking, taking care of my company’s culture is switching from this “what happens” aspect to “who,” “how” and “why” perspective. It is asking what people think, why they do things in certain ways, why they come to work at all…

I am aware this is a very complex notion and it is a sum of all the opinions and attitudes. It’s also about the values team members bring in. And while it is very difficult to observe and delineate, the sure thing about the culture is that this is a totally human part of all businesses.

People are the core

High performance isn’t possible without great people. Every company starts with a bunch of people and a goal that they share. It then grows — strategy, procedures and roles come into play, but still: people are the DNA of every organization. Their beliefs, customs and way of doing things meet and mix together. And this combination either succeeds or fails.

What about the corporate culture within distributed teams?

Well, apparently it exists and is doing fine. Examples? WordPress, MySQL, Basecamp, WooThemes, Buffer and Nozbe, to name a few.

Interestingly, the corporate cultures within these companies are extremely strong and clear, actually making up one of the key success factors. People who work for the same company, who try to reach the same goal with identical resources, but who don’t see each other every day need to build a stronger culture. They want to see more precise targets and follow clearer values. This is a natural need for distributed teams, which makes up for the lack of physical contact.

Sean Graber wrote that “successful remote work is based on three core principles: communication, coordination, and culture.” And I absolutely agree.

Communication: Well established communication channels and tools in a virtual environment are crucial.

Coordination: All actions and projects must be well structured by the procedures based on the best practices.

Culture: People working remotely need, as I’ve already mentioned, stronger organization culture to ensure the sense of belongingness and membership.

The Nozbe culture

Although I feel that we have a really nice culture in Nozbe, it’s really hard to define it.

I know that I play an important role in my company’s culture as a leader — by being a very optimistic and passionate person with a strong sense of responsibility for others and commitment to my values. I also had great luck when recruiting my initial team members who have stayed with me to this day and have been developing Nozbe with me.

For example, when interviewing candidates for the customer support department, we first check the skills (knowledge of foreign languages) but then we entirely focus on personality and character.

Later, as they work with us we try to show people they are really important and that the stuff they do truly matters. I also give them as much responsibility as they can accept.

So how do we define our culture? Any ideas?

If the company culture is consistent, observable patterns of behavior and commonly shared values must be easy to describe. When I think of Nozbe, several essential points come to my mind. I feel these define our company’s general approach and “the way we do things”:

The key to characterize the organizational culture is to be completely honest about our own strengths, weaknesses and biases. Perhaps an outside observer’s perspective would be really useful.

If you have any proven ideas that helped you delineate your company’s culture, let me know — send me an e-mail at

Quote of the month

“If you let responsible people handle their own priorities on their own timeline, they’ll end up getting the important stuff finished and still be able to work productively on other work.” Zach Holman quoted by Edsel Mendoza

Meet the Productive! Magazine team :)

Execution: Magda Błaszczyk
Editing: Emily Derr, McKinley Coles and Daniella Conley
Design: Radek Kozieł
Technology: Radek Pietruszewski and Tomasz Kapelak
Video editing: Rafał Meszka
Vision (that’s me!): Michael Sliwinski

Michael sliwinski

Michael Sliwinski

Michael Sliwinski is the editor of the Productive! Magazine, the founder of Nozbe (a time and project management application for busy professionals) and of Remag (complete solution enabling bloggers to easily create their own magazine-like apps). Michael is the best-selling author of #iPadOnly and It’s All About Passion.

Visit Michael's blog Follow @MSliwinski on Twitter Check out his book: #iPadOnly