Is it time for a corporate culture revolution?


Some of you may have noticed that yesterday was boycott a meeting day (brought to you by the productive folks down at 37signals). I’ll admit that I didn’t boycott a meeting today, but I also didn’t have any meetings today (other than a 10 minute standup). That probably says good things about where I work. Not that we don’t have meetings of course, but I don’t tend to find my days booked with meetings outside of interviewing people (we’re hiring btw).

However I really liked what Jason Fried had to say in the TEDx talk displayed on the BAMD website. It really resonated with me. I’ve been questioning for some time now the value of most meetings and have been steadily finding that ad-hoc communications does the job much more effectively, faster and involves fewer people.

Scott Chacon was recently talking about Github’s flavor of corporate culture which he calls “developer driven development” (yeah we needed another xDD like we needed a hole in the head Scott). Seems kinda obvious when you read it outloud don’t it?

Unfortunately, you really only have the slides there, but even by themselves a few really stood out for me:

Wow, sounds pretty great doesn’t it? And by great I don’t simply refer to the free beer (though speaking from experience, that is pretty great). What I mean, is that this sounds like a working environment that motivates people, encourages learning, creates passion and drives innovation.

But, could a model like this really work anywhere? Honestly, I’m not going to pretend to know, but my gut feeling tells me yes it can, at least wherever the corporate culture is willing to support it.

So why is an environment still more often the exception than the rule. The obvious reason is that startups like Github are well, exceptional. However a more useful explanation is that we still cling to many common preconceived notions about how a business, and more specifically a software business, should be run and how its teams should be managed.

However, more and more startups like Github, 37signals and even behemoths like Google and Facebook, seem to be tearing through preconceived notions like a velociraptor tears through… unlocked doors (what did you expect me to say?). So this begs one final question: Is it time for passionate, motivated developers to lead a culture revolution in our industry, or will we cower away in fear of championing for change… like, for example, that person who forgot to lock that proverbial door.

I mean clearly, in many respects it has already begun. More and more companies talk about things like 20% time, fewer actually do it, and probably fewer do it effectively, but the impact is still there. What now remains to be seen is which organizations will choose to adopt cargo-cult versions of what they see successful startups doing (as often happened with Agile) and which will really try learn to change their culture and thinking.

I’ll say this though, where I work we have free beer, so I’m confident we are starting on the right path.


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