Getting to the heart of Twill

Twill makes shipping simple. Ask any Twiller, what makes Twill, ‘Twill’, and this will be their response. But what exactly is it that links us all, near and far, through the invisible thread of twilling a culture together? What is the heart of Twill?

Defining our culture

Let’s rewind to a cold January 2017 in Berlin. Together with some brilliant minds I took on the challenge to define just that, the invisible thread. A most exciting journey for me, a professional first in my career, and a scary one.

We used “simplicity” as our anchor and through a series of iterations we identified our leadership principles. We then followed a similar model and we developed corresponding behaviors and actions. This I would call the mechanics of culture design and believe it or not, it is the easier part of the process.

Looking back through the culture lens

A company culture – or any culture in fact – is a living thing and it evolves with the actions we take every day. If I sit and review 2017 and how we have changed as a company, I think we can say:

  1. We learn every day at Twill – both through on the job learning and pursuing the various growth and learning opportunities available to us. We all share back what we learned, and “Hot Tops” every Friday captures six 10-minute stories and is enjoyed by local and global Twillers alike
  2. We focus on developing expertise at Twill – we do peer programming and we rely on each other’s strengths. We know the things each of us do really well, and that’s why we have introduced some informal rules such as “always listen to Ernst-Jan” – since he has proved himself a good source of information in the tech industry
  3. We hold (public) huddles each morning –we focus on giving updates across functions and most importantly pointing out the possible or needed synergies available. We also invest in a thorough onboarding, helping new Twillers quickly and safely on their path. This is “working smarter” at Twill
  4. We embrace change and innovation internally – both through our agile way of working, actively spreading outside the tech space, such as Agile HR. We question today’s processes and hold huge maps on the office walls so that we can see them every day. As a result, improvements and suggestions can be received and discussed on an ongoing basis
  5. Our culture of feedback and trust building mechanisms help drive an open culture – and this means we can build open and honest relationships. We also run a bi-weekly Twill Barometer that allows to stay in touch with our needs and enables us to make effective changes
  6. And we do have a lot of fun – our Chief Entertainment Officer (Roxi) always makes sure our serotonin levels are high when during a busy work day comes to ask for her favorite toy, a Twill balloon. We have created a nice space and atmosphere that most people say they feel when they visit us.

Remaining focused

I am afraid, however, that this is not the whole picture. We are a company that grew a lot in 2017, and very few of the Twillers today were with us in Berlin. We also know from our Barometer that aspects of our culture are not always clear.

As Twill’s leadership team, we need to continue to stay focused on our culture. Having an office with a living room, bean bags, a ping pong table and a couch (from which I’m writing this blog post) is super nice, but we should not be mistaken that this is what culture is. If culture were an onion, this would be the outer layer. The second layer is our behaviors, and deeper than that are our assumptions and rationale for these behaviors.

Continuous improvement
I would be completely honest if I said that developing or focusing on those deeper layers is something we couldn’t give enough attention to in 2018.

While we now have a model on how to build a culture, I don’t yet have a perfect answer on how to deal with competing priorities in a fast growing start-up. On the flip side, my interaction with a wide range of our peers this year has shown me how fortunate we are, that despite our speedy journey, we took the time to clearly define who we are and who are the “natural” Twillers out there.

Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection, I learned.

So the answer to my quest is that yes, company cultures can be built in an iterative manner. This is, in fact, the only way to build a culture and stay relevant, in the market for your customers and for your workforce. So looking to 2018 I know we’ll keep on twilling together this invisible fabric that makes the heart of Twill…Twill.

-Ramona Sandu – Head of People

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