Why Does Culture Matter?

I saw the Facebook privacy issue on the news. I remember somebody saying, developers should just be responsible.  A common practice is to "make it work, then make it right."  The problem is, you don't always get a chance to "make it right."  That very much depends on what your organization values.  The values define the culture.

I flashed back to our early values in patterns & practices.  The thing to know about values, is that values flow down.  It's what the leaders say, it's what they reward and punish.  It reminded me of why our collective set of values was so important.

If you value cost …

  1. You might find that nobody that makes the stuff, cares about the stuff.
  2. Your customers only love you while you're the cheapest.
  3. You might be chasing a losing battle, or win a battle to lose the price war ... another person, team, company, country is always cheaper.
  4. If it's all about cost, nobody will be excited about making great things, or fixing the stuff that gets in the way of great.

If you value execution …

  1. You might ship a bunch of stuff.
  2. You might spend all your time on the wrong things.
  3. You might find nobody cares about the stuff, including your customers.
  4. You might ship at a rate, that nobody can absorb.
  5. You might ship a bunch of problems that your users have to deal with.
  6. You might ship a bunch of stuff, but lack the impact that counts.
  7. You give yourself a chance to iterate your way to goodness and greatness.

If you value learning …

  1. You might find the problems, before your customer do.
  2. You might fix the problems, your customers tell you about.
  3. You might prevent your problems in the first place.
  4. You might evolve your process and your product enough to stick around.
  5. You attract continuous learners, who like to improve what's around them.
  6. Your learning loops create a path to greatness.
  7. You might invest in innovation and R&D, in a way that changes the game, or at least your game.

If you value quality …

  1. You might change your game.
  2. You attract people with a passion for excellence.
  3. You create trust and reputation (good things in a reputation world.)
  4. You improve your people, process, and product as a natural by-product.
  5. You prioritize time and energy to "make it right."
  6. Your quality becomes a differentiator that's hard to copy.

If you value customer-connection ...

  1. You might value, what your customers value.
  2. You might know how to price your stuff.
  3. You might figure out, what they don't like, maybe even before they do.
  4. You might ship the things that your customers care about.
  5. You might find more ways to create value, in ways that match your customer's world.

When I look back to the values we had in patterns & practices, I see how they helped pave the way for great:

  • Continuous Learning - Continuous learning, innovation and improvement - We have a bias toward action (over more planning) and customer engagement and feedback (over more analysis.)
  • Customer-Connected - Open, collaborative, relationships with customers, Microsoft field, partners, and Microsoft teams.
  • Execution - we take strategic bets, but we hold ourselves accountable for creating value, shipping early and often, and delivering results that have impact with customers and in Microsoft.
  • Transparent - Explicit, transparent, and direct communication with customers and with our team and others in our company.
  • Quality - Quality over scope - no guidance is better than bad guidance.

If you don't think you, your team, your company, etc. are on a path to great, check the values for clues.  It’s not about having this value or that (after all, all values are … well … valuable) ... the magic is in the blend, and often the difference is in what’s missing or out of balance.

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