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Kaldea Culture Guide, Part Two: Transparency and Contribution

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This is the second in a series of four articles, publishing our full culture guide. It covers transparency and contributing to Kaldea’s goals and mission.

You’ll notice that transparency and contributing toward Kaldea’s mission are inextricably linked to collaboration and supported by it. This is on purpose. Our belief is that transparency empowers others and democratizes information so collaboration can continue according to its fullest potential and, together, we can achieve our mission to make data analysis simpler, faster, more productive and fun. So read on to see how we both philosophize and practice transparency and contribution.

If you can get excited about transparency and animating your work, together with your colleagues, toward greater purpose, then check out our Careers page on Notion.

Be transparent

We need transparency for many good reasons: it helps remove ambiguity; it reduces time to resolution; it establishes the foundation for trust that is needed for constructive feedback; and it also reduces the inequitable distribution of information and the unintended power dynamics created by having or not having information. However, transparency is difficult to maintain because it is extremely easy to lose. Company level items such as financials, milestones, and critical decisions, though guarded by some companies, are easy to be transparent with because they do not require frequent maintenance. Providing members with views into our financials on a quarterly or monthly basis is easy, and it’s simply a matter of policy. However, practicing transparency in day to day operations is more difficult. Do you use DMs or share channels? Do you share your meeting notes with your colleagues (do you even take notes)? Do you directly engage to solve a conflict, or do you sit on it? Do you share your failures so that others can learn from them? None of those are natural behaviors. They take thoughtfulness and focus. At Kaldea, we recommend practicing transparency by doing the following.

Empower your colleagues with information and automation

One of the easiest ways to scale transparency is to provide information to your colleagues, asynchronously—that is, by documenting, taking meetings notes in a shared workspace, recording your meetings, keeping your work-related calendar public, and staying on public Slack channels as much as possible. Through these practices, you have set a critical foundation for transparency; now your colleagues must do their part to digest the information you have provided.

Share and discuss the good and the bad

As a team, we are already good at creating opportunities to discuss the good and the bad. We self-initiate formal and informal post-mortems, document them, and share them. As a company, we will conduct quarterly all-hands meetings as a basis to discuss the good and the bad. Get used to hearing about the bad, and utilize it as an opportunity to re-align and identify points of improvement so we can unlock new levers of growth. We encourage each team to conduct their own post-mortem on a regular basis, and create their own rhythm to re-align the team in the right direction.

When discussing the good and the bad, include yourself as a topic of discussion. Discussions about the project and teamwork are productive on their own, but constructive feedback about individuals set the foundation for our up-leveling. What did you do well, and where do you need to make improvements? No one expects you to know everything. You don’t know what you don’t know, but, unfortunately, your colleagues will make assumptions about your knowledge. Let your colleagues know where you need help, and accept help when other offer it.

Privacy and transparency do not go hand-in-hand

Privacy must be protected and guarded. Private information should not be shared, even with fellow Kaldeans. Avoid at all cost discovering or sharing your colleagues’ private information.

  • Knowledge about Kaldea and relating to Kaldea that is just for you to know:
    • Individual credentials and passwords;
    • Your compensation package;
    • Information about customers or colleagues that you know because of your role
    • Critical information about Kaldea that could be misused by a third-party: bank account, IP address.

Some topics occupy a gray area in terms of privacy; they may be ok to know about or discuss if both parties are mutually willing.

  • We do not forbid people to talk about topics that may include broadly different positions like religious beliefs, political views, or romantic relationships. Whether or not you choose to discuss these topics depends on your individual preference; however, keep in mind that these topics are extremely difficult to discuss well without exceeding the boundaries of the professional environment. We do not claim to be experts and do not have any recommendations; just note that these are very difficult topics to engage in with your colleagues, and differences in these topics do not always result in positive working relationships.

As a rule of thumb, don’t share or request what is not publicly available in our system of record. Also, lock your laptop screen when you are not attending to it.

Transparency is not a silver bullet for efficacy

When we practice radical candor or transparency, we can confuse it as the standard operation in all contexts. Recall that we push for a high level of transparency because it helps us produce the best results. While we suggest public documentation and communication for most things, we suggest private documentation and communication for the following items for maximum efficacy. You aren’t necessarily occluding transparency here, but you are judging the best environment in which to transparently communicate your thoughts.

For negative feedback, we absolutely recommend a private setting over a public setting. The main purpose of the negative feedback is to ensure constructive improvement. How do we increase the possibility of negative feedback turning into positive outcomes?

  • Preparing to give negative feedback: There are many ways you can improve your chances of providing results-oriented negative feedback. To highlight just a few, we recommend: 1) explaining the full context of why this negative feedback is necessary to improve; 2) bringing concrete examples of failure and specific suggestions on how to improve; 3) writing it down before you go into the conversation; 4) sending a summary of the discussion after the conversation to reduce the potential for misunderstanding, and to provide a written note that can be referred to in the future; 5) expect multiple follow up conversations; 6) do not avoid emotional points. Maybe you are offering this feedback because you feel a certain way when you interact with the individual; it is ok to discuss these negative emotions directly. Do not forget that you are providing feedback in order to produce results and to enable change, not to make a statement.
    • We want particularly to emphasize the importance of sending a written summary. Most of us require some time to take in negative feedback, and without a record that we can refer back to, many details can be lost.
  • Receiving negative feedback is never easy. Even if you expect it to occur, it is still terrifying to face. If you have the courage, we recommend that you first ask for the negative feedback before someone sets the stage to deliver it to you. Make the move first, clarify your expectations and performance, and make negative feedback an opportunity for improvement; you are in charge. But, oftentimes, others will ask to meet you and you will be on the receiving end of the conversation.
    • Here are a few things to remember:
      • Assume good will: The person providing you the feedback has thought about this many times before coming to you. They have exerted a lot of energy and courage in coming to you, so assume good will. Why would they do this if they did not want a good outcome?
      • Assume difficulty: As described above, giving negative feedback is also a very difficult exercise. As you won’t be able to make improvements immediately, understand that the feedback provider may also need a few iterations to support you properly. Don’t close off the conversation as ‘bad feedback.’ Find out what is essential that may be valuable to your improvement.

Do not hesitate

Transparency takes courage at times. In the gap between transparency and courage is hesitation. Unfortunately, hesitation tends to have a compounding effect. The longer you hesitate, the more quickly transparency disappears. Once that initial window of transparency has passed, you won’t be able to wait for the next best moment; the opportunity for transparency will not arise by itself. You will have to exert effort to orchestrate the best time to revisit whatever issue requires transparency and provide an explanation of why this transparency is only coming now. All that effort may require a lot more than what you are willing to exert. It is certainly better late than never, but, in order to prevent your own energy drain, stop hesitating and take the step forward to provide further transparency or feedback.

Contribute to Kaldea

In our culture survey, Kaldeans described contribution as producing results that align with our goals. We also mentioned that volume of input does not equal contribution. What does that all mean?

Producing results that align with our goals

We believe one of our most difficult tasks is to ensure that we align our results with our goals. But ensuring that alignment is difficult because we constantly change and evolve our goals. We make the effort to plan and set goals, but we also understand that we must be able to revise our them quickly. That flexibility makes alignment difficult. When the company and team plan changes, your plan needs to change too. The best way to align your work with Kaldea’s goals is to ask for clarification. Are you completely sure that what you are working on is going to produce results that align with our goal? If not, take the steps to clarify; Kaldea invites you to clarify if and how your work aligns with our goals. We have lots of points of clarification: documentation, Slack, weekly all-hands, team meetings, 1:1s. Don’t wait to clarify the potential gap between your work and company goals until it is too late.

Ironically, concentration and tunnel vision, which are required for a high-quality output, are common causes of misalignment. Context switching is difficult. And we hold leaders and teams responsible for cultivating an environment in which we minimize context switching so that we can guarantee quality concentration time each day. However, we do need to switch gears to align. We align our individual work to Kaldea’s goals by meeting and by writing documentation. We can easily lose alignment if we do not give our full attention in meetings and especially when we do not read what our colleagues ask us to read. To align in our asynchronous work, we take notes and publish meeting recordings and critical documents. At Kaldea, not reading is unacceptable, as you are deliberately forgoing the opportunity to align toward our goals. Do you feel like you don’t have enough time to read? You’re probably right, but don’t forget we signed up for this early stage journey, complete with crunches and sprints; not having time for new things is always the case in this environment, and, yet, we do not allow ourselves this excuse.

Input does not equal contribution

There is no doubt that input is extremely valuable. We are gathering the world’s best team to bring Kaldea to our customers. So, whatever we do, input on its own is valuable. However, input itself is not enough to count as a contribution to Kaldea. Contribution requires a far greater investment than raw input—an investment in time, emotion, money, and effort. Given that investment, we must focus on producing results and, yes, input fuels the probability of producing the desired results. Our work ends when we produce results and we require input until we achieve that result. That also means that our work does not end just because we feel like we have given enough effort. We have no respect for, “We tried our best and let’s call it a day.” Focus on producing results, and manage the necessary input until you achieve the desired results.

Conclusion: Join us!

We worked with all our founding members to create our culture guide. If you’d like to join us on our mission to make data analysis simpler, faster, more productive and fun, AND help shape the culture that makes this mission possible; then …

Check out our careers page on Notion!