The author is pointing out that a necessary ingredient (among others omitted) is strong culture--which is something of a tautology. Of course a company with great culture has a strong culture; if it were a weak culture, it wouldn't be pervasive or definitive of the company. A company with weakly held cultures wouldn't be described as a "company with great culture". At best it would be described as a "company with great team cultures", at worst a "company without culture". But none of these three statements hold any inherent truth about how productive the company might be, how happy people might be working at said companies, the values of the people working for these companies, or how the collective values of the employees impact the company.
The author is also looking at two companies that have been around for 15+ years. Where is the evaluation of all the companies with similar leadership values to Amazon and Facebook that didn't survive? Was their strong culture an aid or a hindrance? Did they fail despite their strong culture or because of it? Where is the evaluation of companies with similar success and longevity that don't have top-down cultural values? Can we say definitively that they don't have great culture?
I appreciate that the author has a lot of respect for and values the culture of previous employers, but when asking the question "What defines a great company culture?", I would hope for a more substantive answer. Reinforcing that "whatever the cultural values might be they have to be strongly endorsed by the leadership" can be part of that, but that's describing something other than the "great culture" itself.
If a company changes its strategy, the culture can be too strong. You can see that a lot where established hardware companies struggle to adopt more of a software culture. A culture can be too weak to support the company strategy in any meaningful way. That is a competitive disadvantage because there is a lot more need for communication and coordination.
No disagreement on the long term planning aspect though.
“All you need is access to capital, or a lot of stuff that can only be done with capital, and that’s what you’re missing, girl.”
Not useful at all:
“What you really need is this cargo-cult aspect that the successful companies have years after their success, but also tons of failed companies have that we never consider, and it isn’t the main reason for the company’s success”
It's also very interesting because quite a few of the "visionary companies" have failed in the 30 years since it was written.
For example, Walgreens sold off their lucrative restaurant business and put all new stores in extremely high traffic areas and became the seller of not only prescriptions, but random things people need, but don't want to go to Walmart for. It paid off nicely, but it was extremely controversial at the time. They also didn't freak out when internet dotcom companies (set to take over the industry) popped up as they knew those competitors were missing the entire supply chain. Instead they took their time and automated things better to make customers happy in a different way like automated phone ordering. Was all of that genius, or luck. Maybe a bit of both. The same story with Barnes & Nobel and Amazon doesn't turn out so well.
Microsoft is a great example of a company which had...
a) many cultural shifts over time
b) still is a company with many different sub team cultures
...and regardless of where they were on the spectrum they have always managed to sell Windows, Office and SQL Server very well.
1. Marketing to the 'cool kids' with the expectation that everyone else will follow-along... is probably not good advice in the absence some key differentiation. For Microsoft, this could have just been the massive amounts of capital they could deploy towards getting the Xbox to market. Even then, just spending money is not a strategy.
2. Middle-aged IT people are likely to have more disposable income to afford a $X00 device and a library of games (where the real revenue is). They could also be thought to have less leisure time and place more value on it accordingly, which would correspond to spending decisions. They may also see themselves as 'skateboarders with tattoos.' There's nothing demographic specific about those properties.
This is not as relevant as many think...
Good sales people know that..
- it's hard to sell expensive items to anyone, let alone middle aged people who have many other things to pay for
- the best people to convince a middle age person to purchase something are their children
- it's infinitely easier to convince children that they need something
... which is why so many industries focus on selling it to the cool kids. Once the cool kids have something then the other kids want it. When kids want something they will get on parent's nerves until they eventually get it, unless the parents truly can'f afford it.
It was neat when I overheard the oldest coaching her sisters on how to plead in a cute tone.
But I have no qualms saying no most of the time. Immunity did take time to develop.
Today they gave their best pleading voice for chickens. All while holding baby chicks.
Also, relatively expensive luxuries (such as video game consoles) do not need to be marketed toward people who have a lot of money. They just need an emotional appeal to the people who will want them -- then those people will either direct a larger percentage of their income toward those items or they'll motivate their parents/grand parents to buy them for them.
Lastly, even if a console costs $500, many poor people consider them a very cheap form of entertainment in the long run because that $500 console will last for several years where as a trip to the movies is very expensive since it only lasts a few hours.
Of course it’s entirely possible that you’re right and I’m just bitter that I can’t spend more time gaming :)
MS lost a decade because of stack ranking under Ballmer. Dropping that has allowed them to get back to being more competitive with Google and Apple.
You're missing the point! One can't say what are the cultural elements of "great". All you can do is tradeoff one element for another. What defines a great company culture is one that is held consistently, and that you, personally, as a person with your own particular outlook (let's call it red or blue), enjoy and are productive in. What's great for you is not what's great for another.
Too bad we can't understand this in our politics.
> Reinforcing that "whatever the cultural values might be they have to be strongly endorsed by the leadership" can be part of that, but that's describing something other than the "great culture" itself.
Necessarily so! You cannot define "great" culture because there is no such single thing. You can define consistency, though. This is the critical element because it means that you can predict the repercussions of your actions and act accordingly. Rewards and punishments don't feel capricious and subject to "politics". You don't have to guess what your particular manager will do based on his particular and inconsistent whims.
> Too bad we can't understand this in our politics
Unless you have a very good reason to not get a vaccine and not wear a mask I will expect from you to do these things. Not because I don't understand what's not great for you. It's because I understand the objective reality of the disease.
Instead things become frictionless and the organization can become fluid.
I’ve worked at a couple of companies that had great culture and the best was Uber. Uber, post-shenanigans and pre-Susan Fowler memo, was hands down the best company I’ve ever been at. Everyone was aligned together which meant that everyone was working together, everyone had the same mission and understood it and we were empowered to do great things.
Similar to Facebook, TK had weekly Q&A that was incredibly open and transparent. TK, contrary to the popular narrative, was an extremely progressive person and it showed in the company. Things weren’t perfect, but perfection isn’t the enemy of great and it was great working at Uber between about 2014 and 2017.
The Susan Fowler memo was an inflection point that lead to its culture being essentially destroyed. People were no longer aligned or empowered, and the incentive system was changed to basically destroy engineering culture. By 2020, when I left, the engineering culture was a bad joke. The only thing on most people’s minds was “How do I get promoted?” and the incompetency of engineering leadership lead to decisions like “Toil vs Talent” which meant incentivized people to create their own microservices and not work together with others.
I don’t discount anything Susan Fowler wrote in her memo, everything she wrote was verified by Thuan Pham himself. I didn’t know her personally but I know people that did, and she was known to be very smart. But her experience was not the majority experience. I think most people and especially most women had very positive things to say about working at Uber. But it was a wake up call that things needed to be changed, but what they ended up changing ruined what made it great. It’s a fascinating topic that I daydream about writing a multi-part Medium post about but never will.
Travis Kalanick illegally obtained and read the private medical records of an Indian worman who was raped by her Uber driver. He publicly claimed she was lying to frivolously sue the company, despite absolutely no evidence to support those allegations.
> Uber, post-shenanigans and pre-Susan Fowler memo
The "shenanigans"--I think you mean systemic discrimination against women via a culture of sexual harassment by high-ranking men with the complicity of HR--continued until Susan Fowler published her memo and the board belatedly fired TK.
> The Susan Fowler memo was an inflection point that lead to its culture being essentially destroyed.
> I don’t discount anything Susan Fowler wrote in her memo
This reads like you're trying to blame the fall of Uber's engineering culture on Susan Fowler without saying so. And sure, there's room for people to disagree: I personally think the board fired Travis Kalanick because he didn't IPO as quickly as they wanted. But this honestly reads like "Everything at Uber was great until this one woman complained and ruined it for all of us." And I don't think that's what you actually want to communicate.
You didn’t read the article you linked to, didn’t you? It’s pretty funny. Neither TK nor Uber blamed the victim ever. And TK didn’t order getting the medical records. His subordinate, Eric Alexander, who I had the pleasure to work with once and he was an asshole, obtained them and showed TK. TK shouldn’t have looked at it, but he did. Nothing came of it except Eric Alexander was fired.
I didn’t blame Susan Fowler. I know you have an agenda against Uber, so feel free to believe what you want to believe. The reaction to her memo ruined Uber because leadership was incompetent. She was right to have written that memo, so don’t try to make it seem like I’m blaming her.
Companies the size of Uber will always have harassers and assholes. It’s unavoidable. The best you can do is create a culture that calls it out and fires them immediately. Uber hired a VP of engineering from Google but he was fired because he left Google because of sexual harassment. But Google covered it up. Same with Andy Rubin and his sex slaves. Yet how many of you still use Android?
I agree that TK should have brought Uber to IPO years sooner.
"The Uber executives who viewed her files, which included CEO Travis Kalanick and senior vice president Emil Michael, had started to believe the incident had somehow been orchestrated by Indian ride-hailing company Ola, according to reports"
"Last week, however, it was reported that Uber took a different view of the assault internally. Alexander, then the president of business for Uber Asia Pacific, reportedly traveled to India in the days after the attack and obtained the victim’s medical records. He then allegedly shared those records with Kalanick and Michael, the senior vice-president for business, and the group theorized that the victim was part of a conspiracy by rival Indian firm Ola to damage Uber’s reputation."
"Several media reports cited in the lawsuit said that senior staff at the ride-hailing company, including Travis Kalanick, the former Uber chief executive who was ousted in June this year, and former executives Emil Michael and Eric Alexander, had questioned the victim's account of her ordeal."
The suit settled out of court, so we'll never see all the evidence, but this behavior by Kalanick and other upper management would be in line with his their hiding Uber's actions from regulators via "Greyball" and spying on Lyft's drivers. (Google "Uber Greyball" or "Uber Hell" to learn more about those programs. Contrary to your claims, neither of them were ended before Fowler's open letter.)
It is certainly true that their competitors also behaved badly. But your original post was about how amazing Uber's engineering culture was before Susan Fowler publicized the ongoing, systemic discrimination against women there, at which point all the goodness went away and your good times were spoiled. That honestly makes you look like a clueless, sexist jerk, which I would like to think that you are not.
Also, TK and Uber never publicly accused the victim of anything according to all of your links. Did they have closed door meetings where they questioned whether or not the victim was faked by Ola? Maybe. But publicly they didn’t even hint of that. If you are accusing TK of a thought crime, for going through the exercise of figuring out if there was a motive, then you are engaging in totalitarian beliefs at this point. How many horrible things have you thought or said in your life behind closed doors but were never brought to light because the media isn’t gunning after you?
After everything Uber had been through, was it so crazy to think they Ola would bribe someone to fake a sexual assault to hurt Uber? Of course not. Was it right to obtain a victim’s medical records? Of course not. And Eric Alexander was fired for it. Did Uber ever even hint publicly that maybe the sexual assault was fake? No, and all your links say the same thing. Publicly, in every single link you provided, Uber and TK decried the assault and paid a settlement to the victim.
I know people that worked on Greyball. It was a tool created because competitors in areas like France, were calling Ubers to locations and then physically attacking them. Greyball was used to protect these drivers. Subsequently, police officers would also call Ubers and then try to ticket them. Whether or not you agree with the legality of that is your own right, but it was a way of protecting drivers from getting huge tickets or fines. To qualify that as a mechanism to subvert regulators, well I guess I disagree with you. And in the end Uber ended up being right.
I have plenty of female friends and coworkers that would vouch for Uber as a safe, progressive and supportive environment for women. If any company like Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc went through as thorough a review as Uber did, I would wager much worse things would come up. I’m glad Uber went through it, to rid our ranks of people who sexually harassed women or worse, but only 20 out of 15,000 people were fired. I don’t think that qualifies as “system discrimination against women.” I think that Uber is/was largely a great place to work.
And I know you have an agenda against Uber, so everything you want to believe is going to reflect that agenda. I frankly don’t care what you think of me, and my words speak clearly for themself.
Alcohol was rampant. There was all sorts of sexual harassment and execs having affairs with reports. There was politics and subterfuge and extremely non-blameless postmortems (i.e. you were fired). People were working 60 hour weeks.
Hiring was a total shit show. There was no standard practice -- managers were hiring their friends left and right. Nepotism, not meritocracy, ruled. Recruiters blatantly lied to candidates about offers. There were a few suicides.
People were spying on their ex's, celebrities, fighting and committing fraud, giving friends credits or discounts. Thousands upon thousands of borked fares where drivers or riders were respectively paid or charged incorrectly.
From a technical standpoint, it couldn't be worse. Sure it was fast and exciting, but some of the worst, biggest technical debt decisions ever were made in this time. Almost all of the engineers who made this decisions are no longer there. China, schemaless, M3, all the ops shenanigans. On call was a nightmare. Teams were competing internally by solving the same problem but not talking to each other.
You wanna know why the culture seemed great? Because they were burning money like there is tomorrow. There was no oversight. So the firehouse got turned off, the party was over.
Fowler was a symptom. Her memo didn't cause culture to implode, it was already a time bomb.
Please explain more. Did they change more than just sexual and other harassment reporting and handling policies? Why did any of the changes have any effect on engineering?
Same with Google. The intentional misrepresentation and ousting of Damore was a turning point where engineering culture was run over by activist culture.
I love this entire thread and it resonates a lot with me. I, too, believe that there is not THE right company culture that will solve everybody’s problems. Many in the agile or “new work” camp seem to believe that their way is the ONLY way, for example.
Consistency is much more important than how the culture actually is.
We seem to mostly agree that diversity is important, and having employees from different background help bring different ideas and solutions to the table, react with more agility on unforeseen situations.
On a fundamental level, applying the same vision and forcing the same values and rituals on everyone looks to me at odds with what diversity is supposed to bring.
As an aside, if a company has a credit card processing division and mini-game producing divisions, I'd see a clear case for them to not have the same values nor the same priorities, and in the end the same culture. That's what I also felt reading accounts from UX designers at Google in the early days, when they seemed to be crushed by the 100% data driven culture from which they tried to carve a small niche.
IMO the difference is that consistency brings people together to agree on the same goals but diversity brings different perspectives on how to reach said goals. It's a bit of nuance, like the distinction between strategy and tactics.
Having disjointed strategy wreaks havoc because people can't agree on what's ultimately important in determining success. Differing tactics brings a bit of experimentation to the table where groups may try out different paths but are all honed in on the same end goal.
I've worked in organizations that couldn't align on strategy and it was horrendous. One level wanted the focus to be on creating an organization that is known for high-quality "world-class" work. The other wanted to move fast and bring in as much work as possible, sometimes at the detriment of quality. Leadership couldn't get on the same page and it created a fracturing of the workforce into competing camps, neither of which trusted (and at time worked to undermine) the other.
Consistency can still produce negative results, but, because it is a defined process, it is much easier to ‘pull the levers’, and wrangle the process into an outcome you want.
Serendipity is great, but it really does take a special group of people for that synergy to work, absent a process.
I think of it like a good band.
It's more at an organization level where I see the need to have niches accomodating groups that have different dynamics, perhaps goals and working patterns.
Another instance of that could be customer support centers, who work hand in hand with the product and dev centers, while having wildly different composition, processes and targets from the rest of the company.
I think many in the Agile camp are fed up with being held back by people who are unwilling to change, and are willing to break the mold (and some eggs) in order to find a new, better way to work.
> Consistency is much more important than how the culture actually is.
This just leads to a consistently toxic culture that nobody wants to work for. I have worked for plenty of places where nobody gives a shit and nobody tries to change anything, and it was terrible. Our working life should mean more than a stock ticker.
The last being absolutely insane, since both the values in Scrum and the values in the Agile Manifesto are extremely broad and abstract. Even the guide itself clearly states Scrum only being an implementation for those values, not the definition of those values.
Mainly because wasn’t one of the foundational elements of agile (lowercase A) “people and tools over processes”?
Lately Agile feels as ritualistic and process-heavy as a checklist for a rocket launch.
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Also "Agile" doesn't feel ritualistic and process heavy. I'm probably now doing what you refer to as the "you're doing it wrong".
Agile itself is not ritualistic and process heavy. Specific frameworks and people are. E.g. take a SAFe consultant trying to get a paycheck from a large corporation. Of course that's gonna be ritualistic and process heavy. That's the point of SAFe and even in the name. They're trying to sell a "safe" implementation of agile practices to enterprise organizations. Safe in the sense of not actually having to change all that much. Basically keep what you have but you can call yourself agile now. Comes with a rubber stamp too now!
That's way different than a company trying to actually live agile values as defined in the manifesto. E.g. throw away your issue tracking tool to build your software and put a bunch of post it notes all over the walls at the office. Talk to your peers. Build awesome software together from rough drafts on a post it. Or how a friend of mine describes working at Tesla: "Jira issues? Yeah we write those after implementation is done so that the AC match what we did". Awesome!
So yeah if you see me in real life, I'm fighting for proper agile value implementation in the organization around me and living and teaching them in my teams.
How much do we value doing the work vs. talking about it? Are the highest-status people the most skilled practitioners, or something else? Are policies and processes designed with empathy for practitioner workflows, do they make any intuitive sense to practitioners, or are they decrees from clueless faraway box-tickers?
Are people on top of their shit and constantly improving it, or do they not even realize what's wrong with it until you tell them? When you file bug reports and feature requests are they responded to promptly and taken seriously?
How much do we value consistency, reliability, stability - both in our work product and in our interactions with each other? Are APIs stable? How are migrations handled? Do platform teams provide nice off-ramps? Do they continue providing adequate support for the old thing until you're actually off, or just shrug and say you should have been using the shiny new? When you get a "monthly newsletter" - was there an issue last month? Will there be next month? If you come across a 2-year-old "approved" design doc in unfamiliar territory, what are the chances it was actually executed?
I have seen all these things vary quite a bit between teams and over time.
From the outside looking in, these companies seem like the two most toxic workplaces in big tech. What makes their culture great?
If you take IBM as an example, on the one hand you have the IBM people like to make fun of but then you also have teams inside IBM who are extremely sharp (e.g. the people working on their Silicon). That being said culture isn't technology.
In all cases each company talks up it's "culture" - to me it's just a phrase that elicits an eye-roll.
Another commenter suggested you look for a "typical 9-to-5", but even there I'm sure they'd talk up their amazing culture.
This is like saying I don't want to have any behavior.
Every company has a culture. The difference is whether you are aware of it and working on it or not.
I can think of numerous historical examples of organizations (typically nations or empires) where this was true but the outcome was very bad for everyone involved.
And what are the alternatives? No consistency throughout the company would mean that there wouldn't be any company culture to speak of. And if your processes aren't (ultimately) top-down, then what's the company leadership actually for?
Other values may well vary between departments - People working on the car's software can do weekly releases at little or no cost with lightweight planning - but the injection-moulded door handle will need a $$$$$ mould and several months for every design change, so they'd certainly better have frozen the design several months before product launch.
There might not be much common ground on ideas like starting with an MVP and iterating, moving fast, dealing with changing requirements, two week sprints, and so on.
The obvious alternative is a bottom up organization of culture although most companies are not setup for that to work well. The actual reality is going to be a combination of both. I'm sure everyone's worked in environments where the corporate values are treated as a joke.
Change is not a problem but consistent application of expectations is important (in my opinion, this would include expectations around how you manage change).
If you have one set of expectations from one manager, and a different set of expectations from another manager, the complexity of your work just squared.
Of course, he doesn't explore whether or not the benefits of this are worth the disadvantages, and there's plenty of room for argument either way, especially with large organizations.
Both of those versions are gross oversimplifications.
That's very reductionist.
At that point it’s bad company culture right?
Yes, because you're taking a significant risk joining any company (in the sense that you have limited time and want to go where you can have the most impact for the firm and best outcomes for your goals).
You often dont know details about projects, people, etc -- but if you vibe with the culture, you can easily find your place there. If the culture is all over the place, it is hard to know from the outside. And if the culture is a mismatch for you, better to neither waste your time nor that of the firm. Without a strongly projected culture, that is hard to do.
But a great company culture is one (regardless of its core tenets) that’s followed strongly throughout the organization, top to bottom, starting with the CEO.
Having it split into tweets doesn’t help. I struggle to think of a worse format - perhaps a series of short videos would be worse?
"Ruthless" anywhere in your value system is terrible, unless you are the military, or your mission statement is to "fight" something like cancer or child hunger. Second, management never knows how to solve a problem better, they just pick one and go with it. Third, a culture where everyone is always asking their boss to solve their problems? Yikes.
But if your (presumably intelligent, qualified) engineers are at a stalemate between two things, what's to say both options aren't fine and they need just exactly that: someone more senior to pick one, given the pros and cons of each.
If the company is growing, winning deals, all people are busy it feels great. A lot of energy is pointed outwards, competing, hustling, convincing. Literally no time for internal politics.
Once a company stalls, the energy, actions, focus, drift inward. "Politics". Shit culture.
Now, what is correlation, what is causation?
I suspect results drive culture. Culture can't make up for overall failure.
And this, presumably mean "great company culture" too.
Agency is good, but only if people understand where they have agency and make changes in those areas and leave the others to someone else.
No hypocrisy ( you all need to work hard while I'm only working 2h/day)
No superstars (high performers are fine but no high performing jerks)
Fair and easy to understand reward structure
Things aren't made difficult deliberately ( 6 layers approval process)
Laziness and poor attitudes aren't tolerated.
I don't really drink, I don't like bars, I often like to spend my evenings with my SO or my friends, not my coworkers. I don't like being made to feel like I am "not a team player" for not wanting to participate in "team building" outside of work hours.
He was there for a few months and always talked about how things we do (and did for years, since the company existed) weren part of the company culture. Like he could simply walk in and say what the culture of the company is.
I understand that he wanted to turn the company around, but he talked like some kind of history revisionist.
No man, this is the culture here, it grew over decades, try to make new policies and hope it changes. But simply saying it's not like it is won't achieve anything.
When I worked at a bank we had pretty predatory selling practices and a fitting culture. This was starting to catch the eye of the media and government so the Bank exec stepped in and said the parties over and If anyone doesn't conform to these new rules then they're out on the street. That day, the culture changed, and everyone was happy to changed because they didn't want the existential consequences to happen to them.
There's the softly softly approach over years and then there's the speeding u-turn. Both can work. The latter just takes more grit.
The vast majority of programmers are male, so if you only hire the best you might go a long time without hiring any females, thus developing a male-only culture. I've been told the worst case of this is one female the rest males, as the one female encourages that bad parts of male only culture to ensure that she is always the most powerful female in the room (because she is the only one). None of this needs to be true, but when you only have 3 males total you need to ensure that you are not developing female hostile culture by accident. Once you have a few females around they can moderate the male only culture, but going from 1 to a few is hard because the great females you want to hire will check your culture and not even apply thus locking you out of that market.
I used females, but there are plenty of other minorities. If the subject was nurses you would reverse the minorities, some of their cultures are male hostile.
People find like-cultured people. Don't hire someone who is a mob programming advocate into a culture that thrives on individual work, or vice versa. Don't hire someone who wants a completely transparent culture into Amazon.
At our 30-person company, we did an experiment where we took a culture framework that was evaluated on 2 axes, and took internal surveys between two years to determine where on the spectrum employees felt our culture was currently at, and what their ideal culture would be.
For anyone curious, I have a data visualization of it here: https://ryochiba.com/2016/11/22/what-is-a-company-culture.ht...
For anyone in a position to explore these questions at an organizational level, I would highly recommend doing an exercise like this. It gives more agency to the employee to express what direction they think would be optimal and brings awareness to the fact that totally different cultures can both be considered "great".
It seems to me managers may prefer the right side, while many employees see the left as optimal. Did your data shed any light on this?
Workaholism is a real problem in North America I guess
You kinda sound like you buy in to the overwork and are trying to convince others of your own decision. I would say: the company never really appreciates or rewards it, and becoming a kool-aid salesman is often a path to ruin.
As if I'm the one who is wrong here. Decades of workers rights and unions trying to make work safer and better for people, to work less for the same pay, but I'm the one who is wrong for wanting that.
Why do software devs love to be exploited so much.
We have to be able to distinguish apprentices from people who have all of the breadth, depth, and color that comes with experience. In sane professions, they don't call someone "senior" after 3-5 years.
"Who" is this great company culture for?
Is it for the company to be more competitive in the market and make more profits? Well, Amazon seems to be doing not too bad.
But as an individual, would I want to work there? Not from all reports...
Setting an example as a CEO might have some effect, but I honestly have no clue what my CEO, or the people immediately below them, are up to.
People do seem to realize this, which is why you end up with lists of "company values", but if you look at a few of those lists, you'll notice that every company claims to have fairly similar values. People mostly just ignore it as a result.
Still sharing everything 15 years later
As for the "dumbfucks" thing - somebody young said something stupid, news at 11. Any time somebody brings this up like some big gotcha I just sort of roll my eyes.
Culture is the result of doing other things right, like hiring smart, relentlessly resourceful people who get things done and who are deeply interested in their work.
Beyond that, maintain a standard of excellence and integrity throughout the organization, and you're pretty much done. From that point, success is up to hard work and some luck (timing, right place at the right time, etc).
Good cultures incorporate values, live them consistently rather than just talking about them, and have good values and outcomes.
This isn't just a moral position. Your culture is like code. Ethics define your edge cases. You do not want code - or a culture - that works of the time, but collapses when it has to deal with an input that is difficult or unexpected.
Best company cultures usually concentrate on good work, not values. Results to the society don't matter when people get things done.
I think most companies should try to be as amoral as possible outside the purpose of the company. People choose to work in different companies based on their values or other needs.
I have never been convinced that there is actually such a thing as 'amoral' decision making. Making the sole decision to focus on good work and results (presumably making money for the company) is a moral choice. You have said to your employees and society at large that what is important is money. Make money. Ethical considerations are second. That is a moral stance.
Let's say your company makes widget A. You can source part B for the widget from a company that is suspected of using child or slave labor overseas. They are half the price of part B's competitor. Your 'amoral' decision to focus on the purpose of the company (which, again, is presumably making money) would have you make a very, very bad decision, ethically.
Ignoring your place in society and an organizations obligation to at least speak to the ethics of the people that work there is not really realistic in today's society, I would argue.
A better example is today many companies have no problem with doing business with suppliers that donate to planned parenthood, even though that means they are morally contributing to abortion. I know right now many of you will be screaming but abortion is morally okay, and others will screaming that they wish they could punish such companies...
If the results to the society are negative, I prefer if you dont get things done. Because it would negatively harm me too.
Acknowledging that people can have high morale, and deep sense of purpose and fun when doing stuff that is net negative for the society is important if you want to improve society.
When people associate causing harm with low morale, it distorts what people think is acceptable. "But my work is meaningful to me and we have a greatest team in the world".
Most startups and even a lot of established companies have a nebulous and weak business model; success or growth is not assured. Culture moves the deck chairs into different patterns but the odds are still that the ship goes down.
People who want culture to drive growth are misguided.
There are a lot of lottery winners in Silicon Valley who leave out the “turned a blind eye to the sexual predator” part of their success stories, whether it involves founders or investors. You couldn’t be part of “the mafia” if you didn’t think that sort of stuff was okay.
The day of reckoning is coming.
I remember early FB employees talking to me about how they were spying on people's private activity (who was looking at who's page for instance). I have no doubt there were and are many unethical things going on there. It is indeed a joke to suggest they have a "good" culture.
I’m generalising, but as an example:
The optimal culture to get very difficult things done far more quickly and efficiently than other companies could (think SpaceX) probably often won’t have the best work-life balance. In contrast, a culture which optimises (at least partly) for employee well-being will very likely lose some edge, efficiency, innovation, drive… along the way.
There are of course myriad other variables, but there probably isn’t an ideal answer to the culture question: it all depends on what you want to do, and how you’re willing to act to do it.
Are you implying it's mainly/only great for management?
I don't think we will ever get there. The energy required for interstellar is too high, and global warming is a concern with anyone using too much energy. (Dyson spheres sound good, but mathematically they are tricky because they imply some form of global warming that you need to work around)
btw I was alluding to this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Culture
These are two obscenely rich companies. I don't believe that it is possible to dominate market(s) and maintain "great culture".
In my view there is an inverse relationship between ethics and profits. I don't see any reason to assume that these companies have "great culture" simply because they are very rich. Quite the contrary.
In this context, great has more to do with efficacy and consistency. The author would probably say a company can have a great culture and still be very polarizing or controversial.
I saw this in one company where it was the CTO running amok with an aggressive culture of yelling in meetings, slamming doors, and emphasizing arbitrary deadlines.
I saw it in another org where it was the CPO instead, trying to install Dilberty consultant snake oil with constant reorgs and zero accountability for product managers.
It reminds me of reading Bezos annual shareholders letters.
The culture of the place could be seen from reading those letters.
A couple of those values since day one are:
1.We will continue to focus relentlessly on our customers.
2.We will continue to make investment decisions in light of long-term market leadership considerations rather than short-term profitability considerations or short-term Wall Street reactions.
3.We will continue to measure our programs and the effectiveness of our investments analytically, to jettison those that do not provide acceptable returns, and to step up our investment in those that work best.
This blog https://leveragethoughts.substack.com/p/jeff-bezos-amazon-an... breaks it down further.