Is A “Positive Work Culture” Even Possible?

Dr Stuart Woolley
Published in
6 min readMar 23, 2023


Addressing morale is the fundamental thing your management should be doing.

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You can talk¹ about bad management, idiot development methodologies, suffocating over-engineered processes, and box ticking busywork (and I frequently do in many of my articles) but the fundamental thing in the Grand Game of Software Engineering is to keep up the morale of your workers out there on the front line of development.

It came to me during some deep reflection on the state of the industry, something I spend way too much time doing to be considered healthy, that many of the problems we face in our day to day lives as software artisans² come from a very small number of root causes.

Flawed Doctrine

Management spends an awful lot of time shuffling the deckchairs around on the Titanic-like nature of software projects, making it look ridiculously ineffective, utilising outdated, misguided, and frankly bizarre learned principles in a notional attempt to improve things, when in actuality they’re really only tangentially addressing the symptoms of what’s going wrong.

Let’s take a few examples, ways in which management could potentially improve a project but often just fails dismally instead.

Resource Allocation

Management is pretty hopeless at allocating resources for a number of reasons including not understanding what developers actually do, what software actually is, or any of the many things related to technologies used such as operating systems, languages, libraries, and so on.

It’s just not withing their remit — akin to electing, say, a solicitor to government and putting them in charge of defence, education, or sports.
They just know next to nothing about it and they can’t pick up enough information in a short period of time ‘on the job’ to be any good at it, and there are far better people to do the job so much more effectively if you’d only just given them a chance in the first place.

In a nutshell, the wrong people, the most unsuitable people, end up in the wrong places doing the wrong things.

Unfortunately, the primary cause of this dire situation usually stems from the fact that people…



Dr Stuart Woolley

Worries about the future. Way too involved with software. Likes coffee, maths, and . Would prefer to be in academia. SpaceX, Twitter, and Overwatch fan.