Much is being written about Facebook these days, as the company moves toward it’s long awaited IPO. Earlier this year, co-founder and CEO mark Zuckerberg held a global all-employee meeting. Everyone thought he was going to announce the IPO, but instead (according to an article in the March 19th issue of Forture) he used that time to talk about the company’s mission and priorities. He recognized that the eight year old startup company with phenomenal growth and value was about to undergo a transformation that could potentially ruin the culture that had made it so successful. He admonished employees to maintain their focus on the characteristics that fostered the hacker way, building through continuous improvement; the mottos on the wall like done is better than perfect; the orientation to constantly improving customer interface that brought over 800 million people in the world to open up a Facebook account. He recognized that the IPO would subject the company to more outside scrutiny and investor demands; and that more importantly, many of the employees themselves as newly minted millionaires might lose their edge. They might lose the driving desire to create something new and innovative. They might decide to pass on the quarterly all night hacking sessions where employees work on something other than their day-to-day job; trying out ideas and thinking up new products.
Mission or Money
While those of us on the outside may think of Facebook as existing to make a profit, Zuckerberg has a broader more impactful vision. In his words, they don’t build services to make money, they make money to build better services. That ethos will be tested now among their 3,000+ employees. his goal has been to open up more connections across the globe. He uses the internet and technology to help people establish relationships, share information, and make their voices heard more quickly and personally than ever before possible.
That drives an entirely different set of decisions than might be the case if he simply wanted to make money. and I would venture to say that if his primary goal were to make money, that the company wouldn’t have been as successful as it is today. because while money is a huge motivator, and can be very powerful, there’s very little passion attached to it. It’s always a tool, a means to an end in terms of accumulating enough to exchange it for something of value (a purchase or trade), or such that the amount itself provides leverage or power to influence others.
People will work to get paid, but after a certain point will want to use that money to spend their time doing something that is meaningful to them. but employees motivated by the mission of their company, in this case Facebook, will see the meaning in their every day work, and as long as their value is recognized, monetarily and non-monetarily, they will extend themselves for that mission. Employees there get real time feedback from the over 100 billion connections between users of site users, and instantly see their handiwork on display. They see the global connectedness and cultural transformation that has occurred as a result of their work.
So with Facebook growing at breakneck speed, the impending IPO threatens to change the very culture that made it successful. Zuckerberg is attempting to avoid that or at least carefully shape their future culture. They’ve developed training programs for new hires to teach the Facebook way. They’re resist the typical corporate hierarchical structure and processes in favor of encouraging healthy dissent, experimentation and mockups instead of formal presentations, and people with passion to prove the boss wrong. Zuckerberg’s included a letter on why Facebook Exists with his IPO filing to reinforce their five core values; focus on impact, move fast, be bold, be open, and build social value. He will continue to reinforce that as after the IPO he will maintain 22% ownership and 57% of its voting shares.enough to give him a strong voice in every decision.
The founder or visionary CEOs of companies like Apple and Starbucks left their companies after a point of significant growth, only to return to re-focus them on the mission that made them great in the first place. Zuckerberg admits that he’s fulfilling a commitment to early investors and employees to allow them to make money on the company. it is transforming to fit a new set of demands and he and his leadership team have to work harder to steer the machine, course correcting to maintain the focus that got them there in the first place. Hopefully the Facebook way will survive the transition, and their mission will hold fast. meanwhile, I’m about to post this on my Facebook page.
Copyright 2012 Priscilla Archangel