The XYZ Factor

"XYZ isn’t a place or company or an age. It’s a mind-set - a new kind of culture where innovation, accessibility, and transparency are the norm. It’s an environment created by behaviors and values."

- The XYZ Factor, page xi is something of a marvel in the non-profit sector. They have managed to mobilize millions of young people about issues that matter to them all while making doing good look easy and fun. Their modern approach to achieving massive success represents the essence of what many non-profits are striving to achieve – digital savviness, community engagement, killer branding, and mobilizing Millennials. But what is most remarkable about is their organizational culture and how it has become a model for all companies seeking inter-generational harmony.

In The XYZ Factor staff give a behind-the-scenes look at how the organization operates and what makes it so desirable. They wrote The XYZ Factor as a blueprint that other companies can draw on to improve organizational culture. The key to it all? The XYZ factor is all about adopting the principles of the Millennial generation to foster productivity in a new kind of office culture. What is most refreshing about is their new (and positive) perspective on the Millennial generation workforce, which has the power to encourage other companies to reconsider how they view and work with Millennials.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

A culture of impact stems from values and behaviors

"(XYZ Factor) is an environment created by behaviors and values, not a policy manual approved by external lawyers or board members. It indicates the successful coming together of three generations to produce boldly and efficiently."
- The XYZ Factor, page xi is a very mission-driven organization with a dedication to making an impact. Since their mission is to mobilize young people under 25, it seems only natural that their organizational culture would be an extension of this youthfulness. The reason why it works is because their focus on their values and behaviors to create this culture, not some prescribed notion of what the organization ‘should’ be like.

They identify 7 key factors that make the XYZ so functional and special:

  1. Value choice – Millennials grew up with lots of choice and now it is expected, so companies need to offer choices to their employees.
  2. Move fast – There’s nothing worse than being caught in an organizational approval process, especially if it takes longer than a day. Figure out where there are bottlenecks and improve the efficiency of the process.
  3. Nomadic – Job hopping is the new norm for most people under 35, but it’s not just jobs that Millennials change. They change up many aspects of their lives on a regular basis. It is important that XYZ managers recognize that their employees may be experiencing flux in their personal lives.
  4. Measurable feedback – The typical performance review will not cut it in an XYZ company. There needs to be a process for regular feedback. This doesn’t mean just positive feedback. Constructive feedback is just as (if not more) helpful.
  5. Do overs – Millennials grew up with the option of do overs, and for many it has led to being afraid of failure. XYZ companies create an environment where people can ask questions and take educated risks.
  6. Wired – Millennials are an incredibly wired generation and constantly keeping in contact with people. XYZ companies need to offer employees technology that reflect the times, not by-gone corporate culture.
  7. Everything is public – Social media has transformed our lives, for better or worse. Overlap that with technology, and you’ll see the important role of transparency in the office. Open calendars, Google Docs and so on represent the new way of office collaboration.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Embrace the whole person

"At, we let our coworkers in on our lives outside of work, and this is one of the most significant components of an XYZ organization."
- The XYZ Factor, page 11

For years part of corporate culture has meant being buttoned up and professional in the workplace. Sharing (let alone over-sharing) about your personal life was often frowned upon. But has found that by embracing and welcoming the whole person, not just the professional, they are able to cultivate much better work relationships. This means things like connecting with each other on social media platforms and showing off their individuality. They reference CEO Nancy Lublin’s obsession with Hello Kitty and how she has lots of Hello Kitty paraphernalia on display in her office. By having the CEO lead by example, all staff feel welcome and encouraged to be themselves in the workplace to create a more authentic experience.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Data is absolutely necessary

"Your organization has a similar kind of nervous system: a nearly real-time feedback loop that can inform the efficacy of programs, products and services. Unfortunately, most companies don’t tap into this."
- The XYZ Factor, page 64

There is lots of talk about the importance of data to a modern organization, yet many organizations are still struggling to harness the power of their data. Organizations may be collecting data but aren’t empowered to react to it, or they may not be collecting it at all. For, there are many levels of data and how that data can influence their decision making. For instance they have over 3 million members who they communicate with regularly and who take action through initiatives. They have identified their members as central to their data-driven decision making, and have taken the time to identify what ‘impact’ looks like for their organization. They suggest 3 characteristics of a data-informed organization.

  1. Empathy – Understanding what success looks like, and then using data to solve problems.
  2. Focus – Be able to distinguish between data and metrics and create KPIs.
  3. Speed – The speed of your insights must match the speed of your decision making.

The XYZ Factor is packed with so many insights from an incredibly innovative organization. It was hard to pick just two Insights as there are so many sprinkled in the pages of this book. There are numerous books on HR and organizational culture, but The XYZ Factor is a handbook for the 21st Century.

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Vanessa Chase

ABOUT Vanessa Chase

I am a fundraising strategist and copywriter, and run the non-profit resource website, Philanthropy For All. Through my work, my goal is to help passionate non-profit folks better articulate their non-profit’s impact and work is a way that translates to engaged philanthropic communities...
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