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Change With Purpose

Validating our mission, vision, and values as we transform our way of working.

As part of Palantir’s ongoing transformation to a more Agile organization, we’ve spent the last year reviewing our core purpose and values statements. As we continue to transform the way that we work, it’s essential for us to constantly validate that the new structures and processes we put in place are consistent with our values and support our mission and vision.

I’ve spoken in the past about the importance of understanding your company’s purpose, or why it is that we do what we do. Palantir’s statement of purpose was (and is) “to strengthen humanity by helping others discover, create, and share knowledge.''

And while having that purpose statement was something that a lot of our team members found valuable, for others, it still felt like something was missing. We also heard feedback in both one-on-one settings and through our team feedback tools that our values and principles didn’t feel memorable or actionable for many of our team members. Following some exploration of these concerns by an internal working group early last year, we subsequently developed an action plan to increase shared understanding of our purpose and values.

As part of our redesign efforts, we also validated our purpose and values against our company goals, what customers value and the experience they need from us, and the roles required to deliver value and the kinds of processes to put into place. We reviewed our role in Drupal and other open source communities and ultimately uncovered more questions and ideas for what the future state might look like.

Clarifying Our Purpose

What we came to realize through this process is that while it is essential to understand the purpose of our company, on its own, it isn’t enough. It is also necessary to be clear about what kind of company we are, who we exist to serve, and what kind of change we want to achieve in the world. Put another way, our existing purpose statement provided the “why” and the “how”, but not the “who” or the “what”.

To address this, we took our purpose and split it into a mission and vision:

Mission:

Palantir is a full-service digital consultancy that helps others discover, create, and share knowledge.

Our mission describes who we are and what we do. We’ve done a lot of diverse projects with a lot of different clients in a lot of different sectors over the years, but almost all of our work, whether that’s designing search tools to help patients find the right doctor, building an open source platform for scientists to share climate research data, or making it easier for citizens to access state government services, has had the impact of helping people discover, create, and share knowledge.

Vision:

We strengthen humanity through the work that we do and the way that we do it.

Our vision describes how and why we’re trying to change the world for the better. We’re motivated to do the work that we do because we believe that by making it easier for more people to discover, create, and share knowledge, we can help make humanity stronger. We also believe in order to achieve this vision, it’s vital for us to work in a way that supports and promotes humanity, which is further articulated through our values.

Separating out our mission and vision also helped us to bring clarity to a few key points:

  • Palantir is a digital consultancy. Understanding this provided sharper resolution not only to the value we bring as problem solvers to our clients and our work, but it also provided insight into how we might think differently about how we price and staff our work.
  • At the root of our vision is a shared humanity. Palantir is a deeply experienced technology firm and while we remain very passionate about and committed to the open source technologies that we use (and Drupal in particular), ultimately we are inspired and driven by the connections we create with people: our teams, our clients and their users, as well as our open source communities. The impact Palantir has is deeper than the technology-based solutions that we design and deploy. Technology is simply what we use to help our company and our clients to do better and more valuable work.

Streamlining Our Values

We then took our existing values and principles (which had previously consisted of core values, strategic values, and associated guiding principles) and condensed these concepts into one set of five comprehensive values. We were careful not to make fundamental changes to our values, but instead focused on making them easier to understand and more actionable:

We are collaborative.

We believe that the best outcomes are achieved when people are able to create and collaborate in open, diverse, and inclusive environments. We grow relationships through mutual trust, empathy, and respect, and we communicate with clarity and honesty until we understand and are understood.

We bring out the best in each other.

We bring our best selves to our work and make space for others to do so as well. We recognize that different people thrive in different environments and we believe that flexible thinking and flexible, healthy work arrangements drive success.

We are curious.

We ask questions, explore new things, and improve through iteration. We are open about what we don’t know, share what we do know, and learn from both our successes and our mistakes.

We think ahead.

We create positive and lasting impact by thoughtfully and deliberately making the best choices and helping others to do so as well. We consider the big picture, take the long view, and adapt to meet changing needs.

We are accessible.

We are mindful of the needs of those we work with and the people they serve. We are open and authentic with each other, our clients, and our communities, and approach each interaction with kindness, grace, and good humor.

 

Our values reflect who we are and how we go about realizing our mission and vision based on the lessons we’ve learned from our past experience. The goal is that team members at every level of the organization should be able to look at our values and be clear about what they are, how we model them in our day-to-day work, and how we use them to provide guidance in situations where the path forward might not be immediately clear.

Supporting a Culture of Growth and Learning

After sharing our updated mission, vision, and values with the team at an all-company meeting earlier this year, we are continuing to work to make sure they’re easily accessible to every member of our team and consistently reflected throughout our internal and external documentation and communications. This includes using a Slack bot to reinforce these values when celebrating the achievements of our team members and to start capturing and sharing stories that illustrate how we use our values in practice when interacting with each other as well as our clients. At our most recent company retreat, the theme of each day was around one of our values. 

Together, our mission, vision, and values guide us as we continue to evolve our way of working and develop a culture of learning that benefits both us and the clients that we serve.

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