In 2013, ASAS received the largest grant in our organization’s history from the New York Life Foundation. It was going to enable us to expand to six new cities within a three-year period. Exciting as that was, it’s was daunting, not just in terms of the physical expansion, but also the emotional, the cultural implications of what expanding ASAS would mean. What did being an “All-Star” really mean?
As we considered the task before us, we realized that a focus on organizational culture and values was going to be essential to a successful expansion. Considering that our team would be expanding four times its 2013 size, we needed to identify what gave ASAS its unique culture, and what the specific values were that we wanted to honor and carry through into our new chapters.
We formed a culture committee charged with stewarding the values and celebrating employees. It can be easy when rapid growth is happening to focus solely on strategy, but as Peter Drucker said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” during that 2013-14 year, the culture committee led the organization in identifying our values and through a consensus-building process, we developed a values statement, reflecting who an All-Star employee is and what our approach it to this work.
“We view leadership as service and keep in mind that our work is on behalf of our chapters, staff, students, and the communities we serve.” Whether we are running programs on school sites, building websites, or recruiting for executive directors, each person’s role ultimately impacts young lives, and we take that responsibility seriously.
To build off our values statement, five organizational values were identified that describe how we implement our work on a day-to-day basis:
- Accountable: We take ownership of our work. We set goals and make plans to meet them, and we expect results. Being an All Star is again, owning that our work impacts youth.
- Proactive: We don’t wait to be asked for ideas or feedback. We look ahead to find solutions.
- Entrepreneurial: we build and create. We look at our roles and figure out how to apply what we’ve learned toward the future.
- Collaborative: We recognize that our quality is amplified by working together, within ASAS, with partners, and with the communities we serve.
- Transparent: We are honest with each other, and we give credit where it’s due. In running a large organization, transparency is crucial to working collaboratively.
In addition to the culture committee, we’ve built the National Engagement Action Team (NEAT), a short-term team that closely analyzes our bi-annual engagement surveys, interviews staff, and makes recommendations. ASAS is striving to become a great place to work, and we continue to take stock of our culture and what is essential to our All-Star character. For us, culture is a continuous quest for quality improvement that requires gathering feedback, reflecting, implementing recommendations, then analyzing what works. Supporting a great culture for our staff ultimately affects our student culture, so to be true servant leaders, our investment in our culture is ultimately an investment in the students and communities we serve.