How our organizational culture connects us

We are working as Scrum Masters at ePages in Hamburg and in Jena. As many other ePagees, we highly value the atmosphere at the offices, in which we feel comfortable to work, and are always welcome to speak out our minds. This doesn’t mean that everything is perfect all the time, and that there are no moments where we are annoyed. But we value each other’s opinion, we like spending time together - at work or even after work - and deeply care for each other. In other words, our organizational culture, the way we are treating each other, means a great deal for us.

But before we go into details what our organizational culture defines, we first want to clarify what this term is about.

Organizational culture… Wait, what?!

The term “culture” mainly refers to our interpersonal relationship in social community. That means, a person can be part of several lifeworlds – the own family, a circle of friends, a sports club, or a specific working environment. This again can be multifaceted and dynamic. Instead of perceiving organizational culture as a complete, static entity, we understand it as something dynamic: through exchange and interaction with others, organizational culture is changing continuously.

As you already suspect by now, the organizational culture of ePages is also not a rigid, isolated, and definite thing, and by the way, in general not so easy to grasp. We are rather talking about a composition of different identities, relations, and even cultures of subgroups. Looking at this complexity and multilayered nature, it’s no wonder that there are parts of the organizational culture that differ between locations, departments, teams, and of course between people.

Away from home

When Elisa came to visit the location in Jena to gain a deeper understanding of the work processes, she immediately noticed some visible differences to the office in Hamburg. She for herself perceived, for example, the rooms, and corridors as being more spacious, lighter, and cozier with many green plants.

During lunch time, some of the employees meet in the social area to have lunch together on a big table, and even cook together once or twice a week (yes, “making a salad” can be called cooking…). She felt that this creates an open and great atmosphere, makes you feel part of the group, and connected to your colleagues and the organization.

Whereas in the surroundings of the Hamburg office you find many different kinds of restaurants from which smaller groups of colleagues choose their favorite option. If you bring your own lunch, you always have some company in a small social area which is more isolated from the rest of the office. And of course, you also take your time for a short chit chat with your colleagues, while waiting at the coffee machine, or meeting up for a table soccer session, or inhouse yoga class.

Without a doubt, every ePages location has its characteristics and peculiarities. Differences in the facilities and behavior don‘t mean that, for instance, community cohesion and solidarity is not important or valued in all the offices - it’s just shown in diverse ways. So we feel, despite a variety in demonstrating them, our locations are based on the same core values.

What we value at ePages

Also commitment or engagement are extremely esteemed at ePages - and again, maybe shown in slightly different ways. Some of our colleagues constantly bring new knowledge and ideas for improvement into the company by regularly participating in conferences or doing research by themselves. They promote the company in their circle of acquaintances, seek the exchange with universities, and are involved in job fairs. And of course, it also takes a lot of commitment to be willing to travel (and even fly) to Hamburg every two to three weeks, to seek the personal exchange with the colleagues.

Ultimately, courage is not only one of the Scrum values, but also deeply rooted in our company culture. Undoubtedly, it takes courage to do a review presentation in front of other employees - and even more if you are not very confident in speaking English. It takes courage to come up with doubts or unpopular proposals - and even more, if they don’t concern your own working area. Certainly, it also takes courage to prepare workshops, presentations, or talks to participate in different company events. Last but not least, it takes courage to change your work location for a longer time period, and on the other side to accept a new team member in your group - just as much as it takes to be the only ePagee at a certain location, and thus only work remotely.

What does this mean for us?

Due to the heterogeneity of ePages - our different career paths, locations, home countries, cities, and many others - we have a multi-layered and wide-ranging organizational culture which results in great challenges, and some complications on the one hand, and huge enrichments and great potentials on the other.

For us, what counts in the end are the interpersonal relationships that we define our organizational culture with. That’s why everytime we encounter diverse behavior, appearances, or even rituals, we don’t want to focus on the differences, but see behind that and shape our common culture together. This can only succeed through more interaction between us, between the different locations, departments, and the different teams. It gives us the chance to learn from each other, and to find the common values that connect us. Each of us has an individual way to demonstrate these values in their daily routine, and that there is no definite right or wrong in doing so.

About the authors

Elisa Wiedmann is a certified Scrum Master, who passionately applies the knowledge of her psychology degree to the development of the teams, and thereby fosters agile culture.
Carina Sommer is a Scrum Master. She is keen on promoting an agile working environment, and motivating the teams to continuously improve.