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Culture

Culture isn’t created by fiat. However, culture is created and re-created by the choices made by individuals every day. It can be reshaped by conscious effort applied gently, subtly, and consistently (paraphrased from comments here). People make the culture, so invest in your people foremost.

Ethos

General

  • Make the right thing to do the easiest thing to do.
  • Solve problems by fixing the environment that allowed them to occur.
  • Investigate where (and how) processes and tasks could be automated, and understanding the costs of automating them
  • The worst thing we can do for happiness and productivity is disturb the culture.
  • The worst thing we can do to the culture is introduce tension.
    • There are better battles to fight than with each other.
    • It's hard to say objectively that one culture is "better" than another, but having the culture pulled in multiple directions clearly burns people out, so focus on cultural alignment in decisions and hiring.
  • Perhaps the worst thing we can do for culture is try to preserve it.
    • Times change, trends change, cultures change
    • Culture change will happen
    • 20% of culture is fast-changing, 80% is slow-changing from Leadership Conversations
  • Plan around trust; allow for mistakes
  • Transparency & Communication
    • Lack of transparency alienates people and fosters resentment.
    • Being upfront about risks, drawbacks, failings, etc., shows trust and fosters loyalty.
  • Collaboration
  • Don't avoid hard conversations
  • Remember that customers, colleagues, competition, and community are all people too. Be nice.
  • Simplify things. Make them less complex for you and your team. Good process, good teams, and good architectures all help to eliminate complexity in our systems.

People

  • Happiness is productivity is happiness — at least for people who care about what they do
  • Responsible Autonomy
    • Make it very easy for individuals to see how the work they are doing is affecting the larger team/company goal. This provides a much tighter feedback loop than annual reviews & self-assessments.
  • People are the most important asset
  • Never hire for growth/hiring targets; only hire for fit
  • High cohesion, low coupling — (Highly aligned, loosely coupled)
  • It doesn't matter when or how much you work, only that your peers trust you and feel like you are contributing fairly.
  • Employees are respected before, during, and after employment. Candidates and apprentices become teammates. Teammates become alumni.
  • Be a survivor. You will need to endure constant misalignment around organization structure, strategy, process, and culture. This is a tough job, so don't give up!

Leadership

  • Leadership is not appointed/given, it is earned
    • You are a leader if and only if people follow you.
  • Leaders are servant leaders
    • They treat you like a peer
    • They make it clear that their job is to remove obstacles from your path
    • They build trust through encouragement and participation, and never demand it
    • They are great listeners and have a strong sense of awareness and empathy
    • They understand that if they spend their time growing people, that they too will grow in the process
    • They convince others rather than coercing compliance
  • Build your leadership profile

Hiring

  • Don't hire for teams. Hire great people, let them pick the team they want to be on.
    • Team can say no
    • Bad projects who can't compel people to join them will die. Let them.
  • Interview should be about seeing if there is a symbiotic relationship possible between the employee and company.
  • Hire for culture fit first, talent second
  • Hire with "hell yes or no" mentality
  • Only hire people you can trust
    • Policies/procedures are created when you can't trust your employees — i.e. you made bad hires.
  • Don't mistake "cultural fit" for homogeneity (gender, race, sexuality, or any superficial quality especially)
    • cultural fit is about values and respect for each other (including respecting each other's differences)
      • can you work together?
      • Can you have a reasoned conversation when you disagree?
      • Can you buy in to each other's plans even when they differ from your own?
      • can you hold each other accountable?
    • Monocultures are uninhabitably dull and end as deserts.
      — Stephen fry

Compensation

Transparency

Inspiration

Counter-points:

Considerations

  • Culture aren't like prototypes, you can't throw them away. How do you experiment to find the right culture?
  • Being strict and intensive about hiring, but what about identifying bad hires and handling this once they're in?
  • Companies with good 'chaotic' cultures seem to dogfood or have a close relationship with what they're building (e.g. Github). Is this a prerequisite for effective culture? This would mean that only engineer problems would get solved.
  • What's the balance between hiring "culture-fits" to reduce cultural tension and forming a mono-culture?