I recently had some thought around our department culture and thinking to myself what kind of culture do I want to be a part of? This musings led me to putting down my thoughts around this topic.
From the beginning I decided to try and work backwards and figure how what kind of culture I wanted to be a part of. This lead to my mission statement:
”A culture where I feel energized and find value in the work done, and would enthusiastically recommend as place of work to people I respect and hold in high regard.”
From this here are values and characteristics that can I believe can help drive a thriving Engineering culture:
- Purpose-driven: The organization has a clear and compelling mission or purpose that employees can connect with and feel passionate about. They understand how their work contributes to the larger goals and objectives, which gives their efforts meaning and fulfilment.
- Autonomy and empowerment: Employees are given the freedom and trust to make decisions and take ownership of their work. They have the authority and resources necessary to accomplish their tasks and are encouraged to explore innovative ideas and approaches.
- Continuous learning and growth: The culture promotes a learning mindset, where employees are supported in acquiring new skills, expanding their knowledge, and developing professionally. Opportunities for training, mentorship, and career advancement are provided to help individuals progress in their roles.
- Collaboration and teamwork: There is a strong emphasis on collaboration, with a culture that fosters effective communication, cooperation, and shared goals. Team members are encouraged to work together, leverage each other’s strengths, and celebrate collective achievements.
- Recognition and appreciation: Efforts and achievements are acknowledged and celebrated regularly. Employees feel valued and appreciated for their contributions, whether through public recognition, rewards, or other forms of positive reinforcement.
- Work-life balance: The organization promotes a healthy work-life balance, recognizing that employees need time for personal pursuits, family, and leisure. Policies and practices are in place to support flexible working arrangements, time off, and overall well-being.
- Transparent and inclusive communication: Open and transparent communication is encouraged, with a focus on sharing information, fostering dialogue, and involving employees in decision-making processes. Diverse perspectives are valued and actively sought out to create an inclusive and supportive environment.
- Supportive leadership: Leaders within the organization are approachable, supportive, and lead by example. They provide guidance, mentorship, and clear expectations while fostering a positive and motivating work environment.
- Positive work environment: The culture promotes a positive and enjoyable work environment, where individuals feel safe, respected, and supported. There is a sense of camaraderie, and a balance between hard work and having fun.
- Work-life integration: The organization recognizes that work is an important part of employees’ lives and seeks to create an environment where work and personal aspirations can be integrated harmoniously. This may include offering flexible schedules, remote work options, or wellness programs.
- Honest feedback: Embracing a culture of open communication, where both giving and receiving feedback are encouraged, fosters growth and maturity in all aspects. This approach forms the foundation of an excellent workplace environment, enabling individuals to flourish and reach their full potential. One method for achieving this is Radical Candor — Caring Personally while Challenging Directly — is guidance that’s both kind and clear, specific and sincere.
By cultivating such a culture, organizations can create an environment where employees feel energized, motivated, and fulfilled in their work. This, in turn, enhances productivity, engagement, and loyalty while attracting high-quality talent and earning the respect and recommendation of their employees to others.
Starting with a clear Purpose/Vision
To create a thriving culture we should first have a vision and purpose that allows us to know where we are heading and why we are heading there. This vision is something that could come from top down, or it could be established collectively with a group. In either case having this clear vision allows us to help identify what kind of culture we wish to establish.
What could we focus on to drive a desired culture?
Cultivating a positive culture is often regarded as a challenging task, one that takes time and effort to build but can be easily eroded. It’s important to understand that culture isn’t shaped by a single event, individual, or action. Rather, it emerges from a collection of numerous individual moments, created and influenced by many individuals across all levels and departments of a company.
In the context of Software Engineering, we fully comprehend this aspect and thus, we proactively invest in multiple areas and undertake various small actions to drive this cultural growth. We firmly believe that people are at the core of shaping this culture, and we emphasize the significance of nurturing positive interactions to foster a robust and positive environment.
To achieve this, we collaborate and focus on three fundamental areas:
- People: Recognizing the pivotal role of individuals and their interactions in shaping our culture.
- Practice: Agile, Software and Quality form key foundations of our department
- Environment: Understanding the broader aspects and creating an environment that aligns with the culture we aspire to foster within the company and department.
By addressing these three areas, we can collectively work towards creating a more positive and thriving culture that enriches our organization.
I have a strong belief that good people make great teams and products. Hence, investing in our people, ensuring we have it right at the individual level as well as at the team level, is vital to ensuring this occurs. Additionally, encouraging and recognizing behaviours that help promote safe and energizing work environments will foster our overall culture. DE is actively focused on promoting and encouraging the following aspects for individuals:
Clarity: Ensuring individuals have a clear understanding of their day-to-day job, responsibilities, and what is expected from them to achieve and drive towards the set goals and objectives.
Autonomy: Trusting our people to manage themselves in achieving goals and targets while fostering open feedback and growth loops through their competency frameworks.
Ownership: Encouraging self-accountability and ownership of the work we do, taking pride in it, and setting high standards to strive for, while also inspiring others to join us on this journey
Some (but not all) ways we strive to achieve this include:
- Solid and inclusive onboarding experience
- Full support for people self management of time and work life balance
- Social interactions through non work place activities (Hackathon, All star, Lunches)
- Visibility in the community and business through supporting local events
- Support and drive for continuous learning and professional growth
Every individual is aligned to teams and a practice (Agile, Software, Testing) and ensuring those practices have clear areas of responsibility, growth potential and alignment to how they provide value in the work they do can help create the sense of pride and identity.
Agile: Our agile coaches and leaders help to promote the ways of working and delivery at your workplace.
Software: The software engineers create the solutions providing value to our end customers. Within this practice not only does this mean having the technical ability to do this, but also creating an engineering practice that strives for collaboration and setting expectations on our standards:
- Communities of Practice
- Competency and growth frameworks
- Cross team interactions and knowledge sharing
- Code quality standards
- Documentation templates and structures
Quality: Our test engineering practice provide guidance and quality gates, ensuring the solutions being provided are of the highest standards expected from our customers.
- Community of Practice
- Competency growth frameworks
- Quality tools for solution improvements
- Cross team interactions and knowledge sharing
To foster our desired culture and enable our people to perform at their best within their respective practices, we prioritize creating an environment that supports and empowers them. By ensuring an environment free from external barriers, our people can unleash their full potential and deliver exceptional results.
Equipment: Having the right equipment to do the job is essential to helping fostering efficient and effective delivery as is having desks set up properly.
Facilities: Whether you embrace hybrid, WFH, or an Office working lifestyle ensuring a energising office space or the setup from home allows people to work to their fullest potential and pride in where they are.
Tools: Jobs can be done quicker when the right tools are available and in use, so providing these for our people so they can focus on solving the problems rather than working around the tooling available.