Efficiency and the LeanData Company Culture

February 18, 2013 Evan Liang

The Ford Model T – the ultimate in efficiency.(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

As far as we can tell, our office looks like a lot of startups in the area – an open floor plan, worktables instead of cubicles, and, of course, a ping pong table.

The Ford Model T – the ultimate in efficiency.(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

The Ford Model T – the ultimate in efficiency.
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Still, we think there are a couple things that set us apart from other startups.

In our first blog post, we mentioned that we founded this company because we found cleaning data to be a manual, inefficient, and painful process. Rather than settle for how it was always done, we decided to find a more efficient process and bring that to our customers as a great service.

This quest for efficiency is a founding principle and the very essence of our company culture.

According to the Lean Enterprise Institute, “The core idea is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Simply, lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.”

Here are our most important company principles for translating the concept of lean into daily work:

Be efficient, minute-by-minute and over the long term.

A lot of companies talk about efficiency. But how many of them have lunch delivered daily by the CEO so the engineers can spend more time working?

Along the same lines, we buy everyone top-of-the-line laptops and monitors (so people can work quickly and ergonomically), we work hard but avoid all-nighters (since they’re bad for long-term efficiency), and we use cloud labor for anything we’d otherwise have to do manually.

Have data to input? No problem – we’ll find someone to do it.

Need help scheduling meetings? No problem – we’ll hire a virtual assistant.

Focus on the customer.

Like Zappos, we see LeanData as an enterprise service company that happens to clean up data. While we like cleaning up data and we’re good at it, first and foremost, we’re here to serve our customers. That means that everyone in the company – from the CEO to entry-level staff – should get to know our customers and really understand their needs so that we know where we can help.

LeanData isn’t a 9-to-5, weekdays-only company – in fact, we pride ourselves on being available 24-7, nights and weekends, to make sure we overdeliver on our promises.

Perform at the top of your game.

Like Netflix, we think the best perk of working at our company isn’t our vacation policy or our ping pong table – it’s the opportunity to work with bright, driven, self-motivated coworkers who are passionate about building a strong, thriving company together.

High performance doesn’t mean long workweeks and no social life. It means setting – and then meeting – high expectations for ourselves. It means delivering what we say we will. And it means trusting our coworkers to pull their weight so we can overdeliver to our customers.

Respect everyone’s opinions.

LeanData isn’t a democracy, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. In an innovative culture, squashing people’s opinions just doesn’t make sense. When two coworkers disagree, we settle arguments by testing our theory – using real data and real numbers – instead of playing politics.

And once a decision has been made, instead of wasting time continuing to debate the matter, we respect the decision and get back to work to build a strong company.

Respect everyone’s time.

At LeanData, we’re all about efficiency. In day-to-day terms, that translates into a focus on optimizing our schedules so we’re not blocking our coworkers, and helping each other so no one is wasting time struggling with a problem on their own.

Respect for other people’s time also shows up in our thoughts on meetings – meetings are necessary, but not an end in themselves. At LeanData, we try to avoid long meetings and stand-up meetings. On the other hand, there are times when spending five minutes talking face-to-face is more efficient than sending three hundred emails – in that case, we opt for the meeting. No one likes unproductive meetings, so show up early, finish up early, and get back to work.

Respect the company.

Like Netflix, our vacation and expense policies are simple: Do what’s in LeanData’s best interest.

Need to get a flu shot or go to the doctor in the middle of the afternoon so you can perform well for the rest of the month? No problem.

Need a few days off to let your mind rest, so you can come back to work raring to go and with ten new ideas? No problem.

Need a better desk or a ticket to a conference or a new piece of software that will help you – and the company – be more efficient? No problem.

As you can probably tell, we’re not really into doing things the hard way, just because. Instead, we’re into doing things the best way, all the time.

Make sure to have fun.

Obviously, we’re here to work, and we’re proud of working hard. But having a quiet office where everyone is wearing headphones and staring at a computer all day doesn’t sound like the best collaborative, creative environment. Let’s have fun while we work, and build friendly, collegial relationships in the office and with our customers.

In general, we are not about choosing the fastest or the cheapest solution for anything – from office supplies to our sorting algorithms. Instead, we’re about choosing the best and most efficient solution. That’s good for us, and good for our customers.

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