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One Firm Feel

Posted by: Linda Kilburn-Peterson on 7/25/2011



Feeling like one firm: FSGers gather for an offsite in January 2011



One of the themes of FSG’s approach to solving difficult problems is getting multiple people working on the issue. Lots of brains are better than one. We employ that same approach in everything we do: serving clients, writing white papers, even internal initiatives about the way we work (think candidate recruiting or developing firm metrics).

But what happens when those brains are located all over the globe? We’ve got 6 offices in 3 countries but when you include travel for client projects, we’re in even more locations than that. Yet we aspire to do things that only a cohesive group working together can achieve. As a result, we spend a lot of time and energy trying to create and maintain a unified organizational culture, or what we call one firm feel.

One firm feel means that regardless of where an “FSGer” is located or what project we’re on, we have access to all the firm’s resources and a common vision of what success looks like. It means that we can join a project that’s already underway and know how to plug in: asking questions and suggesting methodologies with confidence from day one. Not only does one firm feel mean better service for our clients, but it creates an engaging and invigorating place to work (see our core value on finding vitality in our work.)



Some of the things we’ve found that keep us connected (while keeping costs in check) are:

  • Liberal use of videoconferencing so we can see AND hear our colleagues in group or one-on-one settings. We continue to experiment with new technologies that help build communities and reinforce our collaborative culture
  • Cross-staffing our teams (client facing and internal projects) so people from different offices get to work together
  • Including culture onboarding in our new hire orientation training – among other things, this discussion typically includes a history of the firm with key milestones that shape who we are today, a discussion of our core values and how we identified them, and an overview of our goals for the year and how we developed them
  • Holding virtual, all-firm meetings each month to talk about firm business and recent client projects
  • Taking full advantage of visits to other offices by including extra time for team building, office hours or a good old-fashioned “happy hour”
  • Getting the entire firm together, in-person once a year (see Kyle’s blog post about our retreat in January). It’s a financial investment but there’s no replacement for the learning and brainstorming that happens in person.
While we’re not claiming to be the experts, and we know we have room to improve (we have a question about one firm feel in our annual employee survey), we do know it’s worth the effort. 



We’d love to learn from you: what other techniques have you seen small, global organizations use to maintain a common organizational culture as they grow?



 



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Robb Fitzsimmons
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The collaborative culture at FSG continues to inspire me. I've never felt more excited by a group of people than by my coworkers at the FSG retreat. Just a capable, passionate, driven organization.

FSG makes an unbelievable effort on behalf of FSGers in many regards, but one of the most special factors is the effort spent bringing employees together not only for client projects, but intentionally and regularly. It goes beyond work product to get at the motivation.

I know the firm continues to experiment with new technologies for improved global collaboration and alignment, but it's very clear that the "why" is authentic and permanent, and the "how" is going to continue to evolve at FSG.

- An FSG alum
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Linda K-P
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Robb,

Thanks for your comments here. I think your last paragraph is a particularly good summary of where we're at. There's lots still to learn but the "why," as you put it, is clear.

Best,

Linda
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