The Genesis of Tech Soft 3D and Its Challenges
Meet Ron Fritz:
Ron is the CEO and one of the four original founders of Tech Soft 3D, a software development business that builds tools that other developers build on. Their technology is used in many 3D applications, like those used by mechanical engineers and 3D modelers.
Moementum’s Transformational Approach
Moementum, Inc. first started working with Ron and Tech Soft 3D back in 2014. At that time, they’d already been operating for nearly twenty years and had successfully grown to thirty employees. They were successful but stuck. The four founders were facing the same frustrating conflicts over and over again. It wasn’t clear how they would continue to flourish.
Since we completed our work with the Tech Soft 3D team, they’ve grown to 125 employees, thrived through a successful outside investment, opened additional offices in four countries, and successfully acquired several other smaller companies.
A few weeks ago, we sat down with Ron to discuss his experience working with Moementum, Inc. Our work together lasted several years and spanned disciplines, including coaching, organizational development consulting, structural redesign, team development, and leadership training. Our conversation highlighted some of the successes we’ve shared.
It will help you determine if the work we do at Moementum, Inc. suits your organization.
To learn about our service offerings, see Work With Us.
Diagnosing the Root Cause: Listening Beyond Words
Our work with clients always begins with a diagnostic process. Our experience has shown us that every organization is unique. To guide the diagnostic process, we use theories and methods developed through the field of organizational development (OD). OD is a long-term change management strategy that aims to improve an organization’s effectiveness, productivity, and overall employee job satisfaction.
The diagnosis begins with a simple conversation. We talk about what’s working and what isn’t. With attentive ears, we listen to our clients and listen deeper for their potential root causes.
Ron summarized it nicely in our interview:
“Like a good doctor, Moe didn’t let me self-diagnose our business. She helped me see that the issues had not so much to do with the actual conflicts we felt but with these other things—a lack of clarity about how decisions are made and the knock-on effects of our conflicts throughout the organization. Given Moe’s long experience, she can see through the surface level of what’s being said to what might really be at the root.”
After that initial conversation, we developed a plan that would rapidly alleviate the tension at the top to co-create ways of increasing Tech Soft 3D’s stability and success in the long run.
Strengthening Leadership: Start at the Top
We started with 1:1 Executive Coaching with Ron to help him increase his leadership capacity.
“Moe introduced me to the concept of organizational development and the idea that the systems that you build impact the performance of the company, the satisfaction, and the functioning of the team. She helped me start to figure out how to make the top team work better and then how to bring those things down through the organization so we could increase our decision-making clarity and also help everyone at every level of the organization get clear on how to make decisions.”
The Need for an HR Function: When is it time?
One of the gaps we noticed in the Tech Soft 3D organization was the lack of any Human Resources function. An organization of thirty people—especially one with the desire to grow—really needs some internal or external human resources function. A dedicated people function provides protection for both the organization and the employees therein and is a crucial component of the safety net that results in a strong, healthy culture. You can read about three common HR mistakes here.
Tailoring HR to Suit Culture
When HR is carelessly slapped into an organization without regard for its real needs or existing culture, it can have negative effects. For example, building a formal rating and ranking performance management solution for a small org like Tech Soft 3D could, on paper, seem like a good place to start when really it is inconsistent with the culture and beliefs already present in how they roll.
To solve that problem at Tech Soft 3D, we helped Ron and his founders develop a well-fitting HR function. In Ron’s words,
“We had a lot of performance variation, so some managers were doing a really good job giving their people feedback and helping them improve and grow, and some were some barely doing it at all.”
Together, we were able to create a system to support individual team members who were struggling. “The system we made wasn’t too bureaucratic and helped focus on the right things like the improvement of the individual rather than unhelpfully rating and ranking our team.”
Alongside a more rigorous process for feedback, we increased the leadership team’s ability to get feedback, helped train their company on a people-first approach, helped the organization fashion a deeply meaningful set of company values, and implemented the structures necessary to feed those values downstream to every level of the company. For Tech Soft 3D, our structural changes increased the organization’s capacity to scale.
“All of those things go toward how people feel about the company—they’re getting what they need, they’re getting feedback, they’re feeling seen. But it also helps us be more scalable.”
The Feedback Loop: Using Coaching for Insightful Feedback
The process of developing Tech Soft 3D’s values was a natural extension of Ron’s 1:1 Coaching. One of the issues Ron and the leadership team had was getting inconsistent and infrequent feedback from their managers and employees. This is common for CEOs and top-level leaders.
“As a CEO, it’s hard to actually get real feedback, and an outside coach can help you gain insight into your own personality and help you see your blind spots.”
As is common as organizations grow, it becomes more difficult for leaders to figure out what’s going on. As Ron said, “I had direct relationships with every single person, but none of that was scalable.”
Ron and his team needed immediate feedback about how they were doing and fast. Moe was able to interview key stakeholders in and across the organization. As a coach, Moe could then feed that information back up to Ron to help him and the leadership team better understand their collective and individual impact and make changes where needed.
“Moe was a great thinking partner as I was exploring leadership challenges in the company—she also gave me the hard messages I needed to hear.”
We were able to pair this qualitative information with data garnered through a series of quantitative assessments.
Assessing and Integrating Cultural Differences
The organization participated in a culture assessment to better understand the cultural strengths and opportunities in how things were done at Tech Soft 3D. Having recently acquired a small company based in France, this assessment quickly revealed organizational cultural differences as the two organizations merged into one. We also introduced a behavioral styles assessment for individuals to understand better their ways of showing up and how it impacts others.
“These tools were really helpful for our teams to increase their understanding of each other. They helped people work better together an understand their own contribution to the team.”
Our experience as organizational development coaches and consultants gives us access to a wide suite of tools to help increase insights in your organization and even train employees to leverage those insights.
An Organization’s Centerpiece is its Core Values
Ron Fritz feels the best decision we helped him and his team make was to develop and document Tech Soft 3D’s values.
“If someone said to me, what’s the most important thing that you ever did at Tech Soft 3D that impacted long term kind of success of the company? I’d say that—alongside making a few smart business decisions—it was getting clear on our core values and having a consistent way to continually reinforce them.”
When we started our work together, the Tech Soft 3D team was a small group of people, mostly from the West Coast of the U.S.A. Everyone knew everyone else; by chance, they tended to operate on similar values until they didn’t.
Those conflicts I mentioned earlier between the founders of the organization were simply the tip of the iceberg. As the organization grew and changed—and as diverse people were hired in different locations and roles—that shared sense of “we all have some things in common” began to deteriorate. Where once it was clear they all valued the same things, the team no longer had the same sense of clarity.
The process that Ron and the Tech Soft 3D team endured to discern their organization’s values speaks highly of the value-development process for any organization.
From Generic to Genuine: Creating Tech Soft 3D’s Values
Our work to discover Tech Soft 3D’s values began at one of the management retreats we facilitated. In about 90 minutes, the founders came up with a set of three values. It was a very exciting development. They were eager to write them down and bring them back to the organization.
Ron recalls, “Within a few months, I couldn’t even look at them because they were so useless and generic.”
Determined to press on, Ron went back to the drawing board. With our help, we developed a novel process to source the team’s values from the ground up. Ron asked everyone in the company to write down the best qualities of the Tech Soft 3D personality as if the company were a person. Ron compressed that long list of adjectives and descriptive terms into twelve themes, which he then sent around again for further feedback. After a few days of moving notecards around the floor and organizing ideas, Ron landed a set of four core values that underpin everything the organization does to this day.
When I asked Ron in the interview if he could name the organization’s values, he was able to name them instantly: “build positive relationships, continually pursue excellence, remain agile and responsive, and have fun.”
But it’s not just Ron who benefits from or remembers their values. As he says, “They show up from the beginning.”
Living the Values: From Hiring to Performance Reviews
Tech Soft 3D’s values appear on their job descriptions. New hires speak with managers about the company’s values during the hiring process. They have what Ron calls the “Corvette Committee,” a playful name for the “Core Values Vetting Committee,” which oversees applicants and assesses whether they match the company’s values*.*
“Does this person seem like someone who continually pursues excellence? Do they have enough humility to know that they’re not perfect? Do they seem like they can be agile and responsive? Or are they overly rigid?”
Team leaders and their direct reports talk about the company values during their performance review process, and leadership asks for feedback on how aligned they are with their values during their monthly all-hands meetings. They open their all-hands meetings with employee-led stories, what Ron calls “Core Values in Action.”
The Power of Conversation over Posters
I like how Ron summarized his impression of Core Values operating at Tech Soft 3D: “We don’t really have many posters. I’d rather have no posters and lots of conversation.”
And that’s exactly it: your organization’s values should be vital and living.
Global Unity: A Single Tech Soft 3D Culture
Ron credits the company’s strong values and the practices they have in place that support them with helping to create the multi-national company he runs today.
“125 people in offices all around the world, having grown up in different cultures, we need to make sure there’s one Tech Soft 3D culture so we’re all rowing in the same direction. And without Moementum’s help, not in a million years could we have done it.”
How Moementum Can Guide Your Journey
- Do you know you need to define your values but struggle to do so in a meaningful way? We’ve been helping organizations develop meaningful values for decades.
- Is your leadership team stuck in conflict and unable to find a way to make crucial business decisions? We can help you develop the processes and guidance you need to create clear, effective decisions for the long run.
- Is your organization at an inflection point where it could jump into newfound success or, just as equally, evaporate into nothing? We can help you steer the change you seek.
- Are your leaders willing but unskilled in what it takes to bring out the best in everyone who works for them? We can give them the tools they need to lead people with accountability and compassion.