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Best Of The Best

The breadth of variety of companies, markets, customers, industries, products, and services in the world is so wide and diverse that it can be daunting to develop objectively measurable criteria for “best in class” that cuts across all of the variability.

Best Of The Best

Being a simpleton, my pseudo-measurable criteria for a “best in class” company is:

  • Everybody (except for the inevitable handful of malcontents (like me?) found in all organizations) who works in the company sincerely feels good about themselves, their co-workers, the products they build, their customers, and the company leadership.

That’s it. That’s my sole criterion (I told you I was a simpleton). Of course, the classical financial measures like year-over-year revenue growth, profitability, yada, yada, yada,  matter too, but in my uncredentialed and unscholarly mind, those metrics are secondary. They’re secondary because good numbers are unsustainable unless the touchy-feely criterion is continuously satisfied.

The dilemma with any kind of “feel good” criteria is that there aren’t many good ways of measuring them. Nevertheless, one of my favorite companies,  zappos.com,  has conjured up a great way of doing it. Every year, CEO Tony Hsieh sends an e-mail out to all of his employees and solicits their thoughts on the Zappos culture. All the responses are then integrated and published, unedited, in a hard copy “Zappos Culture Book”.

The Zappos culture book is available free of charge to anyone who emails Tony (tony@zappos.com). Earlier this year, I e-mailed Tony and asked for a copy of the book. Lo and behold, I received the 400+ page tome, free-of-charge, four days later. I poured through the 100’s of employee, executive, and partner testimonials regarding Zappos’s actual performance against their espoused cultural values. I found no negative entries in the entire book. There were two, just two, lukewarm assessments of the company’s cultural performance. Of course, skeptics will say that the book entries were censored, and maybe they were, but I doubt it.

How would your company fare if it compiled a yearly culture book similar to Zappos’s? Would your company even entertain the idea? Would anyone feel comfortable proposing the idea? Is the concept of a culture book only applicable to consumer products companies like Zappos.com, or could  its value  be industry-independent?

Note: Zappos.com was recently bought out by Amazon.com. It should be interesting to see if the yearly Zappos culture book gets squashed by Jeff Bezos et al.

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