When we began working together, Next Street was already publicly committed to being an anti-racist organization. They went through an executive transition from one CEO to three co-CEOs in 2020, and by early 2022, they had a new strategic plan in place. Because so much about Next Street culture had changed since the company was founded, they recognized that it was time to refresh their values, vision, and mission.
Next Street engaged the Ethos team to facilitate a series of research interviews and bespoke values development sessions to fully develop their values and revisit their vision and mission.
Next Street sought to encapsulate their commitment to anti-racism, reflect their current state, and align with their strategic plans through 2026. To meet these objectives, we agreed on partnering to:
The unique objectives and conditions of Next Street’s requests stretched us to work with a couple of new concepts and approaches. Next Street’s leadership team asked us to integrate their new concept of “Strategic Acceleration” with our values work: the expectation that the entire team would take ownership of the new strategic plan. On the facilitation side, this meant gradually involving more Next Street employees in each session to gauge their reactions to the current draft and incorporate any new ideas.
Our engagement included four robust sessions ranging from 90 minutes to two and a half hours long and nine anonymous research interviews with Next Street employees. We also held “in-between sessions,” where we sat down with our immediate partners on the leadership team to share updated drafts and get a pulse of what was happening in the larger orbit of the organization.
Facilitated Values, Vision, and Mission (VVM) Sessions
We designed four facilitated sessions to take the Next Street team through our values framework, involving more team members along the way, in a consensus-based process. This means we facilitated a collaborative dialogue, seeking active support from all participants on each decision before moving forward.
During each session, the Ethos team’s role was to listen. We started each session by setting expectations: to come from a curiosity mindset, be vulnerable, expect and accept non-closure, and listen and understand. We asked questions, challenged developing ideas to bring them to their full potential, affirmed thoughtful input, and made additional suggestions for the Next Street team to consider. We created transcripts and recordings of each session to capture every nuance, and then met strategically to make sure the voices that we captured were the client’s and not ours.
Here’s a summary of what we accomplished in each component of the project:
1. Workshop 1: Values, Vision, and Mission
In this session, through a combination of small group exercises and large group discussion, we started to identify behaviors that enact the values, vision, and mission. In line with Next Street’s commitment to anti-racism, we reviewed values and behaviors to watch out for that are typically rooted in White Supremacy.
2. Workshop 2: Current Versus Future State
Participants described the current state of processes, environment, and behaviors in terms of their values. From there, the team envisioned what the same components would look like in their future desired state. Finally, following the same process of individual brainstorming to small group discussion and large group review, the group identified behaviors to strive to and refrain from in order to bring about the desired changes.
3. Research Interviews
Between sessions, the Ethos team conducted nine anonymized interviews with a mixture of new and medium-tenured Next Street employees. We asked each interviewee the same 16 questions about the organization’s values, vision, mission, and culture as well as employees’ perceptions of them and what it’s like to work there.
4. Workshop 3: Mission Test, Review Interviews
In our third workshop, we tested our current draft of Next Street’s mission and vision by asking how attendees naturally explain what Next Street does to folks unfamiliar with the organization.
With these new perspectives and the information gathered from the research interviews, the management team revised the current draft of their values, vision, and mission. This was the most engaged session so far, as the group had gained a strong sense of where they stand, what they wanted to accomplish, and how the final deliverables would be used.
5. Workshop 4: Organization-wide VVM – Finalizing Values-Based Practices
At Ethos, we make space for solidarity, which involves two-way communication and co-creating materials.
In our last session, we presented a version of the VVM that was about 80 percent complete, giving the entire organization something to react to instead of starting from scratch. The final 20 percent of editing was where all employees, regardless of their tenure or role, had their chance to contribute to the final draft.
Based on the iterative process described above, we recorded Next Street’s values, vision, and mission statements along with a Values Guide. This living document is meant to be updated, changed, and improved with the guidance, support, and feedback of all employees over time. It includes both current and aspirational values in order to make room for growth. There’s also a table of behaviors to strive to and refrain from, ranked from most to least measurable. We noted who is responsible for each behavior and how often it should be practiced: on an ongoing, daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
As the group size got progressively larger to include managers and, eventually, all employees, we introduced “in-between sessions” with our partners on the executive team to share iterative drafts that we then refined based on what we heard throughout the process. This is also where we gained insight into what was happening culturally and strategically in the organization.
Creating these additional opportunities for our direct partners to review and respond to changes in the drafts resulted in a more collaborative experience.
After our last review session, Next Street took the values guide that we provided them and built off of it to make it their own. Next Street’s new values are already posted on their website, and now they have a consistent shared language to talk about what's important to them within a holistic framework.
With their new Values Guide in place, there are fewer questions about which behaviors and actions align with Next Street’s values. The entire team can move quickly and confidently, with integrity, because they know they are on the same page. For instance, employees can be nominated for spot bonuses when they go above and beyond to enact a specific organizational value. Their value of sustainable growth helps maintain the right intentionality during budgeting processes, and they can speak boldly about their values with new hires and clients.
The values work we did together confirmed the ethical positions Next Street developed to get where they are and put them into an accessible, functional format for new team members at all levels to use. Next Street has continued to make values-aligned hires, like a woman partner, and managing partner Charisse Conan has spoken out publicly about their anti-racism efforts. We’re excited to see how Next Street maximizes the impact of their values as they keep growing!
Our engagement with Next Street was completely customized to their specific goals and challenges. Our team felt that the challenge of bringing an organization to consensus brought out some of our best work in terms of facilitation and synthesis of our client’s ideas.
Next Street’s team finished the process with not just a new document, but a new spirit and sense of commitment to a set of values, a vision, and a mission that they had created themselves. Our role was to provide education, ensure voices at every level were being heard, and move the process forward.
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