Uber Culture Change

Did you get an apology letter from Uber about how they are facing hard truths and they are going to fix their culture?
We found an article quoting the Uber Global Head of People and Places, Renee Atwood, when she keynoted at Talent Connect Anaheim in October 2015. She claimed that they became one of the most valuable companies in the world, because of the company’s culture. She went on to share that the key to that culture was Uber’s three core values. Those values included Be an Owner not a Renter, Take Big Bold Bets and The Best Idea Wins.
Somehow between then and now everything fell apart (and their values increased to 14.) In case you’ve missed the drama unfolding over the last few months, you can read the long and sordid tale in the Guardian or the Business Insider.
The key actions from the Covington Recommendations included, increasing accountability, changing leadership, focusing on collaboration and empathy and empowering diverse perspectives. Isn’t it interesting the impact that leadership had on this dominate company?  Even more fascinating is the prominence of cultural fixes in the report.
Here is a key section of the recommendations (we added bolding for emphasis):

  • iv. Reformulate Uber’s 14 Cultural Values. Uber should reformulate its written cultural values because it is vital that they reflect more inclusive and positive behaviors. To achieve this reformulation of the values, there are several steps Uber should undertake: work with an established and respected organization that is experienced in organizational change to restate the values with significant input from employees; consider further defining the values in a manner more accessible to and more easily understood by employees; adopt values that are more inclusive and contribute to a collaborative environment, including emphasizing teamwork and mutual respect, and incorporating diversity and inclusiveness as a key cultural value, not just as an end in itself, but as a fundamental aspect of doing good business; reduce the overall number of values, and eliminate those values which have been identified as redundant or as having been used to justify poor behavior, including Let Builders Build, Always Be Hustlin’, Meritocracy and Toe-Stepping, and Principled Confrontation; and encourage senior leaders to exhibit the values on a daily basis and to model a more collaborative and inclusive Uber culture. Leaders who embody these values should be part of the process of redefining Uber’s values and should be role models for other leaders within the company. All of Uber’s senior leaders should be responsible for embracing and communicating the reformulated values to employees.

What was intriguing about this:

  1. The critical role that clear and appropriate values plays in making a culture change.
  2. The emphasis on leaders modeling the behaviors.
  3. Values are only as good as the way they are interpreted and applied.
  4. Leaders are responsible for embracing and communicating the values.

Whether or not you are a fan of Uber, it will be interesting to watch how the culture work impacts the company. We view culture as a leading indicator. If that’s true and they don’t fix the culture, the long-term brand and financial impact will be devastating.

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