Organizational culture

Organizational culture is a very important theme for product managers, therefore, let’s dig into it. In a way, this subject complements the article on leadership tips for product managers.

Organizational culture is a feature of every group of people. Even within companies, there are sub-cultures. In other words, each area or team within a company can have its own culture. For instance, the culture of a commercial team has always some differences compared to the culture of the software engineering team.

There is not a right or wrong culture. Different companies have different cultures, and they can be successful in spite of these differences. The following cartoon illustrates the cultural differences amongst Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Oracle. Even with all the cultural differences, these are all successful companies.

But what is organizational culture? Edgar Schein, professor at MIT’s business administration school, was one of the first to talk about organizational culture in the 1970s. According to him, each company had its own personality and its own approach to act and react to situations; and this approach is passed on from employee to employee since the company’s founders. Schein’s definition for organizational culture is:

Culture is a set of premises that have been learned and shared by a group of people while they were solving problems on external adaptation and internal integration. This set of premises works well enough to be considered valid and, consequently, be taught to the new members of the group as the correct way of perceiving, thinking and feeling regarding those problems. (SCHEIN, Edgar. Organizational Culture and Leadership. Jossey-Bass, 2010.)

Culture comes from the company’s founders. They have their own personal culture and values and it’s only natural that they spread this culture in the organization they are creating. That’s why is very common to think it emerges in an organization.

The founder brings the culture and when hiring new people, always looks for those with similar cultural values. This ends up creating a new common culture, very close to that one brought by the company’s founder. This concept of emerging culture gives the impression that we cannot alter it deliberately and that it would develop organically.

Schein warns that this is a mistake. Organizational cultures can and must be planned.

For this reason, I’ll discuss in my next articles about organizational culture and values topics that directly impacts the development and delivery of great software products.

Product Management: how to increase the success chances of your software

In 2015 I wrote a book on Software Product Management in Portuguese. In the beginning of 2016, Paulo Caroli talked to me about how he enjoyed the book and how this book could be useful to people in the software industry not only in Brazil but anywhere in the world. For this reason, we decided to create an English version of my book.

The book is organized in 5 sections:

  • Definitions and requirements
  • Life cycle of a software product
  • Relationship with other areas
  • Product portfolio management
  • Where to use software product management

This book is suitable for anyone working with software. Even companies that do not have software as its core business use software in their day to day and often have developed some software that interfaces with its customers such as a website or a mobile application. It is important for these companies to understand the software product management role and responsibilities, so they can better manage this software and increase its chances of success.

We are working on the translation but as we progress we are already releasing the content. If you want to see the work in progress, please visit the book page at LeanPub. Still in beta but already with valuable content. Feedbacks are not only welcome, but needed!