The Alchemy of Org Building: Defining Your Organization’s Intention

At the most fundamental level, creating a great organization requires defining our intention along three dimensions: company purpose, group mandate, and employee experience. We should clearly answer:

  • At the company level, what is our purpose? Why do we exist?
  • At the group level, what is our mandate? What are we trying to achieve?
  • At the individual level, what is the employee experience required to achieve the above?

Let’s look at this in the context of AppNexus and my organization, Global Services.

Our purpose at AppNexus is to create a better Internet. This is why we exist.

We make the Internet better in a number of ways. By helping publishers better monetize their inventory we ensure that the Internet continues to be a vibrant ecosystem of diverse content. By helping advertisers find their audiences, we connect people with the content and services they find valuable. As we evangelize ad and inventory quality in the industry and invest in teams and tools that keep our ecosystem clean, we make it difficult for bad actors to flourish.

At an organizational level, Global Services, my team, has a mandate we defined together and this is the filter through which we measure success. We use it to define individual quarterly goals, assess annual performance, and decide on promotions. It is also the foundational way our team contributes to the company purpose. Our mandate is to:

  • Earn the unwavering loyalty of our customers by delighting them through every interaction.
  • Be generous cross-functional partners committed to collaboration and the success of all AppNexians.
  • Contribute to building a world-class company with scalable operational practices and a powerful culture.

Achieving a company purpose and an organizational mandate is only possible if the day-to-day experience of employees supports it. To that end, we should ask ourselves: if we achieved greatness, what were the qualities of the employee experience that enabled it? In Global Services, we define those qualities as:

  • We are a learning organization:  We are deeply reflective and intellectually honest about what is and isn’t working; we feel encouraged to challenge convention and speak freely; we have formal and informal channels to define success and evaluate progress.
  • We inspire each other: There is something about everyone we work with that inspires us in some way, big or small. It could be a personal passion, a professional skill, or just the way someone smiles every day! Whatever it is, we know we work with great people.
  • We find our work interesting:  Because we are interested in what we do, we work hard at it; because we work hard at it, we excel.  Excelling as individuals brings us together in teams and propels us toward our goals.
  • We matter:  We matter in ways large and small.  Whether we are making the Internet better, advocating improvements to our products, or simply making a customer’s day better by exceeding their expectations, a day doesn’t pass where we don’t make a difference.

Importantly, we defined our employee experience in a way that speaks to our deepest intrinsic motivations – learning, being inspired, being interested, making a difference. By holding them dear, we know our extrinsic motivations — great products, loyal customers, revenue growth — will naturally follow.  The extrinsic motivations are really just context.  They are easy measurements of greatness, but not the definition of greatness.  They are a means to an end, not the end themselves.  The “end” is the experience we have while achieving our goals.

Referring back to my first blog post, it’s worth noting that defining our intention across these three dimensions – company, group, individual – is a great example of focusing on process over outcomes. Cultivating your organization’s intention (process) creates the rich soil from which great companies grow (outcome). What is your intention?


See all postings from Brandon’s “Alchemy of Org Building” blog here.

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