Building a Healthy Software Engineering Culture

Every organization develops a culture of its own. Here are many tips for creating and sustaining a healthy software engineering culture.

Karl Wiegers
The Startup
Published in
11 min readOct 17, 2019


A picture of a booklet that says “Software Engineering Culture” on the front cover.
Graphic adapted by author

It’s more important than ever for software organizations to build a healthy engineering culture. Healthy cultures rally developers around common goals: shipping high-quality work, continuously improving, and having fun in the process. Your culture is key to recruiting and retaining the talent you need to ship exceptional customer experiences.

This article is based on an interview that Bas Peters (Solutions Engineer at GitHub) conducted recently with Karl Wiegers (Principal Consultant at Process Impact) on software engineering culture. A webcast of the complete interview also is available.

Karl addressed these topics long before developers used GitHub, as in his 1996 book Creating a Software Engineering Culture — and his writings are more relevant than ever. More and more organizations wish to create a culture where people can take ownership of their work, where all work directly contributes to the company’s objectives, and where people can work on projects that are meaningful to them.

Karl, how would you define culture?

Formally, I consider culture to be a set of shared values, goals, and principles that guide the behaviors, activities, priorities, and decisions of a group of people working toward a common objective. In short, culture describes how we do things around here, how we work together, and what we think is important.

How does culture reveal itself in a software organization?

Culture reveals itself in how the organization sets goals, the technical practices people use, the ways people collaborate on projects, how the team members make decisions, and how management sets priorities and communicates with team members.

Another indication of the culture is whether or not management behaves in ways that are congruent with the values they claim are important. If management says one thing but then does something different, or if they say they value certain behaviors but then reward…



Karl Wiegers
The Startup

Author of 14 books, mostly on software. PhD in organic chemistry. Guitars, wine, and military history fill the voids. and

Recommended from Medium


See more recommendations