FIP 77: Company culture and ways to motivate and build cohesion with Julienne Oyler

Today’s guest is Julianne Oyler of the African Entrepreneur Collective who shares her thoughts on building organizational culture.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • Why Julienne thinks that “culture eats strategy”, noting that even for herself it is important to have a fun and exciting work environment to be successful. The way that she interprets this phrase is that an organization can set a good strategy, but it is really good people that are the engine of the work and success.
  • For the African Entrepreneur Collective – which is based on the idea that the problems on the African continent have solutions that already exist in Africa – its mission translates into organizational values and culture. For example, they focus on hiring local talent, using ideas that come from their staff, and have a commitment to continuous learning and growing. She notes the importance of cultivating values organically and not hierarchically.
  • Sometimes, however, the organization’s value can clash with the country in which they are working. The African Entrepreneur Collective manages this to some extent through hiring – for example, hiring people that are comfortable in working with non-traditional or non-hierarchical work settings. The hiring process includes a values-based screen, with employees receiving continued reinforcement of culture during performance reviews, meetings, in the office environment via paintings and artefacts, and about every two months the organization roasts a goat to come together as a team and celebrate successes and have fun.
  • The organization also does “happiness audits”, which is based on the idea that employees are the best predictors of future success of the organization. Every six months, she asks each employee how they feel about their current position, how they feel about the organization, and what is one thing that management can do to make their life happier at the organization. Julienne notes that people tend to be predictive and forward looking when speaking about their roles and are motivated by being a part of something larger than themselves.
  • For the people on the team who may not naturally fit with some of the values, sometimes they have quiet conversations with people regarding expectations and performance in relation to specific responsibilities and tasks.
  • They have also started a book club, from which they recommend “Radical Candor” and “Getting Things Done”. Julienne herself looks to Starbucks as an example of a large corporation that has an ongoing commitment to culture from which other organizations may be able to derive inspiration.

Links to Resources:

Connect with Julienne:



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