Notes on building a culture

Abhishek Jakhotiya
2 min readMay 4, 2023

We all talk about culture in an organization. Good culture, bad culture, nourishing, toxic, aggressive, customer-centric, transparent, meritocratic and so on…

We use plenty such adjectives when describing an organization’s culture. I was wondering, how are cultures built? How do you craft a culture?

Given a set of 17 human beings, how do I design culture?

This shall be an ongoing documentation on experiments in culture building.

Step 1 is to clearly define Shared values and beliefs. I can’t think of all such values I want in the culture right now, but one of them is clear to me.

We are curious and we train everyday.

Now that I’ve defined first cultural value, we need to bake this into the team. We do that by creating regular rituals.

One such ritual we have tested for a week and works amazingly is

“Everyday between 2:15 to 2:30, we solve one small specific, easy problem together. It’s a small session.”

Team of 17 engineers get on a call and for last whole week we have been solving small problems with alpinejs and tailwind. To make sure that this habit is easy enough to follow we have some groud rules.

  1. Each session must happen in fixed format. Define problem statement and expected result clearly. Demonstrate quickly how to solve the problem.
  2. Session must end in 15 minutes. Even if you couldn’t solve the problem for some reason, you end sharp in 15 minutes. This is to ensure you don’t overload anybody.
  3. Everybody pays attention and acknowleges that they found something out today. Appreciation for having learned somthing new is important.

Paying attention, gratitude, decipline is demonstrated by Senior members of the team.

This has worked really well. Apart from training technically, we are also sharpening our communication skills. Everyday.

Next value we want to bake into the culture is customer-centric thinking. I am contemplating on what rituals, routines, change in language should be designed…

PS : My friend doing Intership at Walmart tells me “There are no separate DevOps, QA, SRE, Developer teams at Walmart. There is one engineering team and they keep taking each role in shifts.” I found this paradigm fascinating.

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