Intro to the Vocap Org Health Guidebook

A No-Fluff Guide to Stellar Organizational Health

As a leader of an early-stage business, you probably understand that organizational health is critically important. But knowing is easy. Acting is harder:
  • There are always more pressing things: org health can feel abstract and secondary when you’re trying to grow your sales, manage cash, hire new people, etc. Also…
  • It’s hard to know where to start: what are the clear action steps on what to do and when?
We have experienced this sticking point many times – both first hand and with our portfolio companies – so we created this guidebook to help you strike the balance that prioritizes org health without making it feel burdensome. Org health is really, really important. In fact, it’s because of these challenges that organizational health can be one of the greatest comparative advantages for your organization.
What exactly is Organizational Health?
Organizational health is the summation of purpose (why), direction (where), leadership (who), and empowerment and accountability (how). When an organization is “healthy”, these elements are clear and understood. Things move quicker, innovation thrives, and ambitious objectives are achieved. Talented people are drawn to these types of environments, and these systems perpetuate themselves.
 

How to use this guide

We developed this no-fluff guide to keep you on track, emphasizing the most important and practical action steps at each stage. This is not a prescription, rather a framework. Every organization has a unique personality, and this guide will help you cultivate yours. The content in this guidebook is a synthesis of curated ideas from thought leaders, discussions with subject matter experts, and our own experiences. In this guide, we incorporate advice from some of the best and we are more concerned with usefulness than originality.

Commit to a process

Until you are ready to establish and stick to a system, don’t bother reading on. Building strong org health requires constant tending. It means carving out recurring time, engineering and refining processes, investing in relationships over the long haul and generally giving a shit about people matters. It cannot be set-and-forgotten, faked, delegated or outsourced. Committing to a process is step one.

Vocap Org Health "Cheat Sheet"
Pillar 1 <5 People 5-15 People 15-50 People 50-100+ People
Clarify Purpose & Direction Objective Be crystal clear on why you exist (mission), where you are going (vision), and your core beliefs (values)
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Pillar 2 <5 People 5-15 People 15-50 People 50-100+ People
Develop Transformational Leadership Objective Develop a team of inspirational leaders that operates in environment of trust and transparency with complete conviction on MVV
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Pillar 3 <5 People 5-15 People 15-50 People 50-100+ People
Empower & Challenge your People Objective Create a culture of empowerment, accountabilty, and opportunity
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Where does culture fit

You might have noticed there is no culture section in this guidebook. In our view, culture is an output of the whole system. Like fulfillment itself, great culture will elude you if you chase it as a standalone concept. Instead, it is far more effective to focus on the inputs which we’ve outlined in this guide.

If organizational health is chemistry, culture is alchemy. The former is more scientific (test and iterate), the latter is more spiritual. They are overlapping but separate concepts.

Culture: what it is and what it is not

Everyone has a different idea of what constitutes culture. Given the varying views around this topic, it’s perhaps just as important to call out what is not effective culture as much as what is. The following is a synthesis of our firsthand and adopted lessons:

  • Culture is the way people talk and act in your organization. It’s the language they use and the way they deal with others. It’s a set of principles that manifest in daily service of the organization’s mission. It’s about what people do, not about changing what they believe. When done right, it’s at the center of every meeting, decision, work product and hallway conversation. Culture can be felt in the air.
  • Effective culture is established and reinforced by leaders who conspicuously and authentically walk the talk. It cannot be faked. It encourages transparency, trust, vulnerability and empowerment balanced with accountability. Effective culture acts as a self-correcting mechanism: when an individual deviates, the organization quickly corrects them.
  • Importantly, culture should be unique – it should authentically capture the essence of your organization and make no apologies for bucking convention.
  • Culture is not a set of rules to be followed. It is not outsourced to ropes course retreats, funky furniture or quotes on the wall. Effective culture is difficult; hard conversations and accountability are part of the deal. Culture is not something you can set and forget; it requires consistent reinforcement and communication. Effective cultures incorporate different backgrounds and perspectives while staying true to inviolable values.

On subcultures:

Subcultures will form naturally, especially as your organization becomes larger. Engineers are a different breed than salespeople. This is not a bad thing. The personality traits that help them succeed in their respective roles is different. An effective culture code allows for stylistic differences while maintaining the through lines.