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Lifting Habanero toward our Big Hairy Audacious Goal

In June 2013, I joined Habanero to help them actualize their Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG). Habanero wanted to find out if it was feasible to leverage Habanero’s award-winning culture into a new business offering. This potential new offering, which we eventually named Habanero Lift, would help fulfill Habanero’s BHAG to become the Canadian leader in building high-functioning workplaces and engaged employees.

What attracted me to doing my MBA internship at Habanero wasn’t their award-winning work or their snazzy website. It was that they genuinely communicated their values as an organization. Habanero understands the value and power of culture in an organization, and that is reflected in their work, their clients, and most importantly, the people who work here.

In short, there’s a relationship between Habanero Lift, its importance to the company, and its importance to me. I had the good fortune to partake in a very special internship, at a very special organization at a special time in my life, and I’d like to share this with you. 

Why was working on Lift important to me?

It wasn’t just for academic credit and cash to pay down my student debt.

Organizations always talk about a “talent gap”, but after speaking to my peers and from my own experiences, I think the problem isn’t solely that there are not enough skilled people, or that those people have unrealistic expectations; it’s because the culture at a lot of organizations sucks. What a talent gap really represents is a cultural misalignment between an organization’s current culture and the culture that people in the workforce desire in an employer.

After visiting India during my MBA I was blown away at the sheer volume of high quality work that is produced in the service industry. For Canada to effectively compete in a global economy we need to be as productive as possible and having a positive culture is key to making this happen. Culture and productivity have a symbiotic relationship. If you are succeeding in one area, then the other will also thrive. I believe that having a bad culture reduces the productivity of Canadian companies, and has ramifications on their ability to compete in a global market.

This led me to explore Habanero Lift from a point of view that dealt with improving the organizational cultures of Canadian companies. At Habanero, we see technology as the key to opening up the relationship between engaged employees, high-quality work, and increased productivity.

What is Lift?

As the project matured, it became apparent that we really needed to give it a proper name. So, I worked with another talented summer intern (there were a few of us) named Spencer Perry and together we came up with the name Habanero Lift.

Traditionally the market has viewed Habanero’s offerings as drivers of productivity change. Habanero believes there is an opportunity for these offerings to be viewed as drivers of cultural change. Lift is about reframing of how the market views Habanero’s offerings and how Habanero views itself. It is a continuation of providing offerings that align with Habanero’s strengths and values as a company.

So, in a nutshell, that’s it. Lift is a way for organizations to view Habanero’s offerings as drivers of cultural change.

That sounds so simple when you read it. It’s not. Cultural change is the hardest type of change to enact. Tying the mechanism for cultural change to technology in a way that strategically pivots an organization into a new trajectory is also difficult. But, that’s why I signed up for this opportunity. I wanted to work on hard and ambiguous problems because to me, they are the most rewarding to solve.

So how can we make a viable business model around this concept while leveraging what we are already doing? Habanero builds amazing portals, amazing workflows, amazing ECM solutions, and offers excellent consulting services along the way. Coming in as an intern, I didn’t want to recommend pivoting to anything that would make no sense and either screw up the great work being done or make a fool of myself (which was the more likely outcome).

It’s a work in progress. We’re using the Lean Startup methodology to iterate new hypotheses and validate them as quickly as possible. I was introduced to this methodology during my MBA and I’m a big fan. Lean Startup allows for rapid iteration and validation of new concepts through extensive market testing and analysis. The benefit is we end up wasting less time on ideas that don’t work and can quickly implement ones that do work.

Why is Lift important to Habanero?

Habanero’s values guide their strategic decisions. The market may be changing but as a company we can’t react solely to them because doing so may result in us not making the best strategic choices for the company. We change because it makes sense for us and aligns with our values. What the changing market does is help us identify how we can best fulfill our values.

When we continuously engage with an organization that’s when we add real value. By teaching them how to build upon their technology, we can enact positive change within their organization. This is called continuous engagement and Lift is a part of that continued engagement. It’s a wedge to facilitate cultural change with existing strategic clients. 

Where Lift goes from here

I believe  that Habanero can help change Canadian companies for the better and my internship working on Lift was part of that belief. That’s why my internship to create Lift was important to me: it brought out my passion to change the world, one company at a time.

Marty Stanowich is a second year MBA student at the Sauder School of Business in Vancouver, BC. He likes sunny days and commercializing cool stuff. You can learn more about him here.