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Don't let stress and a crazy pace kill your culture

Sarah K. White | June 28, 2016
Whether it's a cool new startup or a well-established tech giant, culture is a huge part of success in the tech industry. But there are common problems with company culture that span the entire industry -- and it's hurting productivity.

"Make the link between your team or project and the positive impact it has on customers, society, and the world. This strategy has great power. For example, during the Arab Spring, employees within Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube suddenly became agents of social change -- and also cool," he says.

Create consistency

Maxfield says that while every tech company wants to say that it's unique, in reality most are driven by the same principals. "Tech's combination of high-velocity competition, complexity, global talent, and interdependence among rivals is unmatched. Dense geographic concentrations in regions such as Silicon Valley, Seattle, Boston, and Bangalore foster even more cultural idiosyncrasies," he says.

The culture of the entire industry includes high-stress and fast-paced environment, so businesses need to consider how to avoid burnout, low morale and turnover. Maxfield suggests putting in safeguards to avoid overlapping assignments, unclear ownership and changing priorities. If you can avoid these common traps, it not only means happier employees, but it also makes for less work, wasted time and confusion or frustration.

One common thread the researchers discovered was that, especially for the tech industry, businesses need to make efforts to avoid "scope creep." That means, leaders need to consider add-ons or new instructions that might take the team off course. To stay on track, it's important to be realistic about the expectations and delivery on assignments.

The biggest problems with scope creep pops up in cultures of silence, where employees aren't comfortable speaking up and voicing their opinion. If employees know they won't be able to deliver a quality product on time with all the add-ons and changes requested, you want them to feel comfortable speaking up. In the end, how you handle scope creep will ultimately affect the quality of your products and customer satisfaction.

"To safeguard against this in the inevitable messiness of a fast-paced tech world, tech leaders must create a norm where people speak up about unrealistic deadlines and informal compromises to priorities," he says.

He also recommends creating a culture that allows for adjusting priorities, but to avoid relying on another project management system. Instead, work on discovering and eliminating ambiguities through open and honest dialogue in the company. Create a culture that supports employees who find inconsistencies in products and solve problems through constructive dialogue.

Changing the tech world

The problems that exist in the tech world -- primarily stressful working environments, ambiguity and fast paced change -- aren't any one person's fault, says Maxfield. And he suggests that businesses avoid viewing these issues as "problems to be fixed," but rather as realities of the industry. They can't necessarily be solved, but with the right manager and employees, you can create a culture that allows them to thrive, and that will help your business grow.


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