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News September 26, 2019
We’ve always been proud of the strong culture that we’ve built over the years.
RTS Labs runs a flat organization where we hold each other accountable – making it unnecessary to have managers. We work hard as a team (for each other) and celebrate successes often. We also respect each other’s unique perspectives and expertise, leaving our egos at the door for the sake of the work. We’re proud of the tight-knit community we’ve created. But tight-knit communities are generally small, and as they grow, they tend to unravel.
In the past two years, RTS Labs has grown at an accelerated rate – doubling in size and outgrowing our original space. As exciting as that is, we were worried that as we grew, we would lose the culture we had worked so hard to build. We moved into a bigger, fully customized office that matched our personality. To accommodate the increase in work and staff, we began making small changes and putting processes in place – as you do with growth.
“We were growing pretty fast and concerned about losing who we are. We realized we were making a lot of changes in the organization, putting processes in place that we didn’t have before, we moved to a different location… So much growth, so many changes. We wanted to make sure that the people had been with us for a longer time knew that as we grew, we would not lose how we are,” says Jane Holmes, our Director of People Services.
We engaged The Frontier Project to help us refocus and make sure we were doing the right things to keep our culture intact.
This is where we landed.
We’re not a stuffy corporation. We didn’t want to sit in a room and write mission and vision statements or “pillars” because those things don’t resonate for our culture. Instead, we worked with The Frontier Project to come up with our “Constants.”
“In programming, a constant is a value that cannot be altered. Our constants define who we are today and help us make decisions about our future. This is something that resonated with our team, and is resonating with potential recruits,” says Jane.
The RTS Labs Constants are:
Our flat leadership structure empowers our self-managed teams to succeed. We expect a lot from each other but give more in return. The power of playfulness helps us form a strong bond to fulfill a very serious commitment: To do everything in our power to never let each other down.
We expect adult behavior and reject office politics. Our ecosystem of honesty exists between ourselves, our clients and in self-reflection. Your input isn’t just encouraged, it’s required. No matter our growth, we’re committed to doing the right thing.
Difficult problems energize us, fueling our growth as we search for answers. We’re all teachers and students in the same day. When we see a solution, but it is outside of our comfort zone, we default to saying yes.
We’re natural born builders who are agnostic about technology— as long as the result is awesome. We are not order takers, but we are approachable listeners. Our solutions have elegant exteriors, and the code is just as beautiful under the hood.
From our process to our people, greatness is sought everywhere. Even after our best work, we reflect on how to improve. Like code, our relationships are constantly iterating: We continuously look for ways not just to do better work, but to work better together.
These constants really speak to the culture we’ve cultivated over the years and are something we want to continue to engrain in the future of RTS. It’s important that we ensure everyone knows how important it is to us.
“The best companies are constantly communicating who they are. That’s easy when there’s only five people, but much harder when it’s 250. I’ve been worried about protecting our strong culture as we scale. The Frontier Project was able to capture the essence of who we are so that we can properly convey that to our team and new recruits,” explains CEO Jyot Singh.
Once we had our constants, it was time to do something bold to celebrate. While our culture hadn’t actually changed, it was important to mark the significance of having clear communication around who we are as a company.
Taylor, a programmer on the team quickly realized that the constants could be arranged into Ctl+B – a keyboard shortcut to go bold. It’s the perfect way to make our constants memorable.
We brought in Art on Wheels for a fun, interactive project. We decorated huge CTL+BE letters to hang on the wall in the kitchen. The employees had no idea what they were doing but spent time creating together. Once the project was complete, we revealed the constants at Hardywood Park Brewery. It was a huge success! Check out the video below.
Now that we’ve defined who we are and what guides us, we have a way to communicate and inject those into our everyday operations.
“We talk about it throughout the recruitment process to make sure each candidate feels good about working in the type of environment we do. We explain to candidates that we work for each other and see how they respond to that. It ensures that we’re recruiting the right people – some people don’t want to work in a flat organization. It has helped us be more transparent about our culture in the beginning and gives us talking points,” says Jane.
We talk about it to our clients too. We have trifolds in our conference rooms so our clients understand who they are hiring and how we operate.
We talk about it in our stand-ups, and it even guides our peer reviews. That’s right, we do peer to peer reviews of each other because we don’t have managers. We’ve always done it that way, but now we have standards to guide our reviews. Employees are evaluated on their behaviors and work as they apply to the constants. It helps us constantly think about who we are and what guides us, and helps engrain the constants into our culture.
“Our constants give us something to hold onto as we grow. We talk about it at standups and the artwork in the kitchen reminds us. They’ve put a definition to who we are and what ALL of us feel is important,” explains Jane.
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