By Alison Luna, PMP, CSM

Have you ever stopped to think about what your software development process says about your company culture? Is your organization a quick-to-act, fast-paced, huddle-up then get-on-it kind of place or more structured, with decisions starting at the top then analyzed and debated before being communicated to all in a well-documented plan?

Your answer to that question is likely to be reflected in the development methodologies adopted in your technical group. Somewhat like the ENTJ and INTP profiles of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) — a personality inventory often used to assess fit with a team or hiring company — a company’s approach to development team and process also has a set of identifiable characteristics.

If your development team is struggling or senior management isn’t getting what they want from the development side of the house it could be that the process you’ve adopted to churn out technology is at odds with your corporate culture.

I’ve worked as a software project manager, program manager, or product manager in companies of all types. As I recently explored a career transition I found myself gravitating toward companies that use a development process known as “Agile.” Not that Agile is better or worse than alternatives development processes, but it reflects how I like to work and how I hope the company I work for will believe and behave.

Waterfall_GLM3Waterfall is a great process for companies and employees who need forethought and planning before they start building. It also makes sense in an environment that isn’t extremely fast-paced and doesn’t have urgent competitive threats. End-to-end, the Waterfall Waterfall_GLM3.pngprocess can last years; think about building airplanes or the space shuttle. A lot of science, a lot of analysis, a lot of planning, and very detail-oriented work and workers. And it’s a good thing, too. Lives are on the line.

But now think about online services. Extremely competitive and very fast paced. If your company needs to turn on a dime and get things out in months or weeks rather than years then perhaps Agile is for you. Agile means frequent, incremental releases through regular checkpoints on the process. It delivers the product or project in rapid cycles meant to meet dynamic requirements.

It’s hard to say which comes first, development process or company culture, but I’ve come to think that one influences the other. It’s important that the development process reflects the organization’s vibe and how to assure workers will be most productive in reaching the objectives set out by senior management.

It’s not just speed, but also a higher tolerance for flaws or bugs that’s often found in an Agile shop. If “zero defects” is your mantra, you’ll probably want to stick to a Waterfall process. Either way the real understanding of alignment of culture and employee work optimization will go a long way toward assuring that no one in the C-Suite is sweating a series of missed expectations.

In startups I’ve been an active participant in the culture setting process. In big companies I’ve led groups through the delivery of the products in a predefined corporate culture. My experience has brought me to understand that when cultures and methods are out-of-sync, there’s a lot at risk. You’d expect that to risk to be what gets delivered and when but it’s much more. The risk is to the heart and soul of the organization. And the old saying “many hands make light work” turns instead into a picture of overstaffed chaos when people, processes and culture are misaligned.

Bottom line: there is no one right method and no one right culture. But for my money it’s worthwhile to stop and examine where methods and culture fit and where they don’t and then work consciously and constantly to keep them aligned no matter what your product or technology is.

Guest blogger, Alison Luna is a senior-level project manager and all the initials behind her name prove it. She is certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP), as well as a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM). She has lead development and product management teams at Google, Channel Intelligence, and Veritas/Seagate Software (now part of Symantec), and other leading technology companies. In addition to chopping through feature backlogs, she is known to do some other chopping with another certification, that of Certified Instructor of Karate and martial artist. Alison is also part of GroupLM3’s Collaboration Network, a vetted, on-demand talent bench that can be deployed alongside our client’s own staff and resources as an advisor, manager or hands-on implementer to accomplish short- or long-term projects and objectives.

Image: Agile Project Management by Planbox CC BY-SA 3.0

by Lilian Myers at 10:46 AM in Industries, Opinions

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