Dragons in the Algorithm
Adventures in Programming
by Michael Chermside

Culture of Reuse - Part 1: Company Culture

Part 1 of a 4-part essay

Company culture is an interesting thing. Especially in the world of technology companies, everyone seems to agree that it is a very important thing, few seem to know how to create or influence it. Some researchers like Edgar Schein have attempted to quantify it in terms of common behaviors (IBM's famous white shirt policy), espoused values (the mission statement from most any company), and "assumptions" that drive decision-making.

Ben Thompson

I think it is more useful to think of a company's culture as the collection of default behaviors they engage in -- the ways that problems are usually tackled in this organization. The best illustration of this I have ever heard of comes from Ben Thompson and is recounted in the inagural episode of his "exponent" podcast:

Ben had worked at Apple for a number of years, and was interviewing for a position at Microsoft. When talking with the interviewer, he commented on something he had observed at Apple: if someone was pitching an idea and their deck has a single misaligned bullet or ill-chosen font, the people reviewing it would say "You clearly aren't ready to present this yet, why don't you go back and work on the idea a little more and present it next week." The interviewer at Microsoft said "What a pain! We don't worry about that kind of thing around here, we're just focused on getting stuff done."

What I like about this illustration is that neither Apple nor Microsoft was "right" or "wrong". Apple became the (very successful) company that they were because they had such an obsessive dedication to design and details; Microsoft became the (also very successful) company that they were because they got things done. Both are viable ways to operate, the tendency to choose one over the other is what we call "corporate culture".

[Read more in part 2...]

Posted Mon 28 May 2018 by mcherm in Software Development