Building Company Culture

The path to creating company culture is built upon shared experiences. Pictured above is a view of the 22K walk that PTSC undertook in November of 2021 with the goal of creating a full-company shared experience that all employees can use as a starting point or stepping stone for greater company unity and alignment.

Connecting Behaviors with Values

One of the benefits of being an outsider is being able to see things that those on the inside aren’t able to see. To quote the famous Song Dynasty poet, 蘇軾 (Su Shi), as he wrote in 題西林壁 Written on the Wall at West Forest Temple:

不識廬山真面目,只緣身在此山中

Of Mountain Lu we cannot make out the true face, For we are lost in the heart of the very place.

Keeping this idea in mind of added value with an outside perspective looking in, PTSC sought out the guidance of the consulting firm, Vine Management Consulting to co-create the company’s recent push towards building company culture and emphasizing its core values. Vine Management planned two full day workshops to help the management in PTSC align its three values of Passion, Persistence, and Intelligence with concrete actions.

Vine Management Consulting Chief Consultant, Estella Lu, helped to guide 1st and 2nd tier managers at PTSC to connect abstract core values with concrete actions.

“Straightforward and solid are two words I would use to describe Pershing. At the same time I feel the company also has the ambition to grow and thrive.” — Vine Management Consulting Chief Consultant, Estella Lu.

Although Taiwan was experiencing its biggest wave of Covid-19 from May of 2021, this hurdle didn’t stop PTSC from going forward with plans at building company culture. While using online platforms to carry out workshops focusing on aligning core values with concrete actions wasn’t the first method of choice for Vine Consulting and Pershing, the use of these tools as a platform was also an opportunity for the company to grow and demonstrate digital transformation in action.

Pictured here is a timeline PTSC put into place when considering its own cultural roadmap. In addition to working with Vine Management Consulting, PTSC also used outside-of-the-box methods by inviting members of Formosa Improv Group (FIG — pictured on the far left of the timeline) to give an initial workshop focusing on trust and active listening.
“Discover the DNA of our company employees.” Pictured above are PTSC’s 3 Core values of Passion, Intelligence and Persistence, as well as being broken down into their 6 subsets of core values of “Agile, Integrated, Future-Oriented, Empathy, Reliable, and Effective.” PTSC has recognized the importance of these core values, but also the challenge of relating their abstract nature with concrete actions.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the term “culture,” because it’s a really broad and abstract topic. This is why we want to switch the focus to actionable behaviors. By focusing on behaviors, it gives the company a chance to grow into the culture that PTSC wants to become. Vine Management Consulting Chief Consultant, Estella Lu

This video was taken during the 2nd workshop with Vine Consulting and gives a brief overview of different levels of management working together to create behavioral guidelines with respect to company core values. After months working remotely it was a refreshing experience for colleagues to be able stand side-by-side and collaborate with one another.

Let’s take “Innovation” as a specific example. Innovation is something that’s really valuable for the company, for a competitive advantage, for professional growth. But how exactly do you DO innovation as it’s somewhat of an abstract concept? What behaviors can we encourage that produce “innovation”? We could examine our daily work and promote actions that help produce innovation. When we host meetings, for example, we could push participants to feel free to offer new suggestions and ideas. This is an action. Another example could be to write down and share the new ideas we get each time we interact with our customers, colleagues, friends, etc. This is an action.” Vine Management Consulting Chief Consultant, Estella Lu

Listening, Trust and Communication through Applied Improv: Thinking Outside the Box

In addition to working with Vine Consulting, PTSC also collaborated with Formosa Improv Group’s (FIG) Miranda Wang to work with colleagues in a workshop focusing on the communication skills of active listening and trust. This was the first official collaboration between PTSC and FIG.

Pictured here is FIG’s current Community Workshop Director and performer, Miranda Wang as she takes to the stage with her fellow improvisers. Trust and listening are essential when stepping onto the stage without a script and only a scene partner to back up the performers’ choices. These improv skills are transferable and can be applied to the workplace as demonstrated in the workshop she led with PTSC colleagues.

We are accustomed to deploying self-defense mechanisms against people we are not familiar with or who hold very different positions. It’s essential to establish trust before starting a dialogue.

Miranda worked with a select group of PTSC colleagues, first getting them accustomed to being out of their comfort zones with some simple warm-up exercises, and then scaffolding up to more challenging activities focusing on clear communication based on trust and active listening. As many of the participants came from the Technical Department Unit, they may have initially been more comfortable interacting with code and computer screens than face to face with their colleagues or managers. Despite the nature of their technology-focused work; however, human interaction is an inescapable inevitability for team projects, as well as check-ins and meetings with managers. It’s also just a refreshing jolt of energy to have some face to face interactions in a safe environment!

Miranda does a “check-in” with the select group of workshop participants at the start of the activity. “Improv performance has no script. Performance means one thing in the theater context, but improv skills can also be applied to the workplace. The new trend of future management is VUCA, which stands for “Volatility”, “Uncertainty”, “Complexity” and “Ambiguity”. In the post-epidemic era, changes have become the new normal. At work, we must be prepared for rolling adjustments at any time.”
Workshop participants seen here post-workshop, well out of their comfort zones.

Trust and Respect is fundamental for great teamwork. And listening with open mind helps us to appreciate each other. This workshop helped me to understand my leadership style and teamwork skill once again via simple exercises and see my area of need for improvements. — PTSC Chairman, Sean Chen

The listening and communication workshop was held in the appropriately named “Teammate Room,” a space comfortable to move in with stadium seating.

“This workshop gave me a good chance to interact directly with our chairman, Sean, which will help me in my own professional development.” Amy Chen, newly hired staff in the Technical Department Unit.

One of the best things about workshops such as the one that Miranda led is that the movement-related applied improv exercises blurred the lines of traditional hierarchy as participants were “rubbing shoulders” and pairing up with colleagues they might not every talk to. It is not easy to break free from decades of traditional office hierarchy, but having managers and leadership such as the current Chairman, Sean Chen, helps to flatten the hierarchy, thus building more trust amongst colleagues. Just as it takes courage from those newer staff to communicate freely with managers, managers need to recognize the ever-present status gap, as well as being committed to crossing over that gap as they reach out to make connections.

Seen here leading a “One Company” session about personal happiness and well-being, PTSC chairman, Sean Chen, always aims to think outside of the box and use the element of surprise. Normally held indoors in a meeting room, Sean took advantage of a lovely Taipei Fall morning to ask each and every participant to explain where they find happiness. Sean’s focus was on “living in the present.” For the full list, check out Harvard’s Research on these 20 habits.

The Power of Walking Together

Pictured on the left is Vine Consulting 22km Maestro, Eric Ma, with PTSC Chairman, Sean Chen, on the right. This photo was taken on the morning of the 22km walk, prior to the day’s events.

“One person can walk faster, but as a team we can walk farther.”

Vince Consulting Management Facilitator and Trainer, Eric Ma, often spoke these words when encouraging PTSC colleagues, in order to spur them on during the two month period leading up to a culminating full company 22km walk around the Northeastern part of Taiwan. The concept of the 22km walk as a team-building event was first mentioned to the entire PTSC staff during the 2021 3rd quarter full company business review. Pershing had never done a team-building event to this scale before, and it would be quite a challenge for multiple reasons: many colleagues worked remotely or offsite due to the B to B nature of their work, PTSC’s offices spread across three cities in Taiwan (Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung), employees’ work loads were heavy enough etc. To say the least, many of the company’s employees and managers headed into the preparation for this event with a volatile mix of anticipation, trepidation, and uncertainty.

As the entire company prepared for the 22km walking, teams divided up and tracked their walking practices using Microsoft Teams to show picture evidence.

Probably the biggest challenge for this event was that the teams were purposely structured for cross-department collaboration and communication, so that no one team would be dominated by a department where the team members were already all familiar with one another. All the teams would have more than two months’ lead-up time to the 22km walking event in November in order to get to know each other, as well as practice accumulating walking minutes and distances. In addition, the company gave incentives for those teams who were most proactive and frequent in recording their practice sessions. Besides just walking together (or remotely via Microsoft Teams), there were other various activities such as team dinners and team tea-time, and team shopping that were incorporated in the two month preparatory time to build up camaraderie and connection.

Due to the nature of work at PTSC, with many colleagues having to be out in the field or servicing customers, most of the team practices had to be done individually using Teams as a platform to communicate and think outside the box. Besides just walking, team members could use other forms of exercise to complete the day’s “practice.” Here, group members also send pictures of drinks they ordered. On this single team, 5 different departments are represented through their acronyms (PSD, BOD, SPU, TDU, SU).
Besides just accumulating steps and walking together, the two month lead-up to the 22km walking event was the perfect chance to get colleagues to break out of their shells over drinks and meals.

Making the Impossible Possible

I’ve never walked such a long distance, and it’s not something I would normally imagine myself doing. I think this experience has taught me to approach challenges that I might see as impossible as things I can actually accomplish. — Paul Hung

Pictured here on the actual day of the 22km walk, Pershingers bring out their smiles and positive team spirit.

In retrospect, the ones with the most challenging tasks throughout the entire process were the team captains and co-captains. Entrusted with the responsibility of drumming up team spirit with a group of introverted IT colleagues, the role was not without its hardships; however, as one of the three core values of PTSC, teams displayed high levels of persistence in order to power through the two months until the final goal.

“I think I was really lucky throughout this whole project. For the most part, my teammates cooperated and tried to work with my suggestions during the ‘training’ period. For example, I realized that if we did all our training at night, we wouldn’t be prepared for the sunshine on the day of the event. I proposed we do our training in the morning at 7am. Even though there were some grumbles at the beginning, this is the way we practiced, so overall I was very pleased with how open people were to my suggestions as team captain.” — Alynn Chen
Seen here are members of one group of PTSC colleagues on the day of the journey. Turtle Island is visible in the background.

“Looking back at the process, we can clearly see the whole range of the spectrum as colleagues went from not supporting the event at all to full commitment.” — “Bird” Hsu

“The day of the 22km walk was a great feeling, better than expected. During our training days, our group was pretty quiet with minimal interaction, but on the day of the actual event, there was quite a lot of conversation and excitement in the air.” — Sera Hung

PTSC continues to work with Vine Consulting, as well as promoting other opportunities for learning and professional development within the company. At a recent meeting where managers rotate to present on different topics, one manager simply going by the name of “Bird” presented an in depth look at the company’s future drive towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) as an enterprise.

“In the past, colleagues often commented that cross-departmental communication was a problem or a hurdle. Looking at the feedback from our 22km event, I’ve noticed that many colleagues look at cross-departmental cooperation differently now. I’ve heard people say that they’re able to work with different departments, and maybe even people who were complete strangers before, in order to accomplish the task at hand. This type of feedback is truly a breakthrough for us!” — Julia Yang

Although the 22km is over for 2021, it certainly won’t be the last step forward that PTSC takes forward as a team. 2021 marks only another step PTSC’s continuous journey and reminds each and every colleague that only as team can they walk farther together.

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The Clock Stops

The Clock Stops

American residing in Asia since 2004. Blogs focusing on life observations, improv, food, creating a learning organisation, management, and stretching time.