It’s about the how not the what.
“Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with a passion.”
– Brian Chesky, Co-Founder, CEO, Airbnb
With an increasing number of projects, ambitious plans for growth and the continued recruitment of talent to the team, Inertia, like any growing business, has to ensure that the values that matter most continue to sit at the heart of the organisation.
We caught up with Managing Director, Scott Clements, to find out how important Inertia’s culture is to the success of the projects that we work on.
Let’s start with the question that you enjoy the most, tell me about Inertia?
I often get asked ‘tell me about Inertia’, and it is easy to talk about what we do.
We do what lots of engineering firms do; engineering consulting in the water, civil and structural fields and we do that on just about any type of project apart from bridges, maybe a slight exaggeration, but not that much of one.
But I always felt a little frustrated by that answer, because the great companies I work with and those I admire, always emphasise how they do what they do, not what they do.
So you want people to know how you do what you do?
Yes, but more than that, most engineers with have processes and systems that determine the way in which they work, but for me, it is always more than that, the how you do business should be linked to your culture and the values that make your organisation work.
And for me, that has always been about what drives us. What is it that makes our team members come into the office every day, to bring their skills to projects, to work hard and often under pressure?
Because we all know that it isn’t just down to money, it is about culture, feeling valued and respected and being given opportunities to balance your life with your professional ambitions.
So can you define Inertia’s culture?
Since the start of 2018, we’ve had the tag line ‘Our Passion Your Success’ added to our logo.
The statement was thought up by a collective of our leadership group, at a two-day off-site strategic session. We had all been wrangling with why we feel that we are different and to understand how we work and what that means for our people and our clients.
We were trying to put together a simple statement that reflected the values that we have as people and how we wanted those values to be at the heart of everything we do.
So we spent a lot of time with post-it notes and sharpies, and we went through many words and ideas, some which worked and others which will never see the light of day.
Eventually, we found something that resonated with all of us, a simple phrase that captured what we want our team to feel every day and our clients to know that we will bring to our work.
And it was passion. But it is passion with a purpose, that purpose being the success of our clients’ projects.
Passion seems a very unusual word for engineers to use?
At the time it seemed bold, after all, what engineer talks about passion?
But also felt right, we felt that if we applied our ‘passion’ to a project, it would naturally lead our clients’ success.
It wasn’t just a throwaway line, but rather we felt we hit on something that I knew every member of our team feels every day.
What does that mean in reality – taking it way from the logo – how does the phrase define your approach to work and culture?
Does that help me answer ‘tell me about Inertia’? I can’t answer that question with ‘well, when we bring our passion to your project, it will lead to your success’ – there would be rolling eyes everywhere.
It has only occurred to me more recently (and by observing how our team works), that ‘our passion’ primarily relates to a search for the best solutions.
Since this realisation, I have taken note of project discussions and observed the team more accurately, which has consistently reinforced the culture that each member of the Inertia team is driven by the goal of finding a better solution, and this is where their passion lies.
And isn’t that the passion that made us all engineers in the first place? From playing with lego as a kid to be fascinated by how the world is connected to marvelling at buildings and tunnels and structures and design?
If there is one thing that engineers truly are, it is passionate. And it is a passion associated with discovery and problem-solving. I think we all know that secret high we get, that little jolt of satisfaction that comes from solving a problem.
Has that changed your perspective on your view of what Inertia does?
When asked the question ‘what sort of projects does Inertia do’, I used to say ‘we get all sorts of projects, but seem to specialise in the difficult ones’.
I now realise that I was inadvertently explaining the true passion of the people of Inertia – to find the best solutions. This was what stood out when working on challenging projects, where you really need to work innovatively and search for solutions to ensure a feasible project.
How does that work practically?
Of course, it is one thing to have a passion for solving problems, but this needs to be taken to the next level to ensure this passion results in success. We have three primary strategies that we utilise to make sure this occurs;
- Having a creative mindset combined with a practical approach to design
- Being able to communicate openly and honestly to leverage the collective wisdom
- Understanding the objectives of all stakeholders and delivering on our promises
‘Our Passion Your Success’ is our drive to find the best solutions to a project or problem, and naturally, this leads to our clients’ success.
And what does this mean for Inertia going forward?
It defines everything that we do.
We are going through a growth phase at the moment and bringing in new people to be part of the team. Any new team member has to convince us that they share our passion, that they want to work on challenging projects and that they will always push themselves to come up with the best outcome and solution.