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Managing a Development Effort - Part 5

Creating a culture for success

The last thing you want for any software development effort is to have the developers stop caring about the quality of the results. If that happens, you are probably going to fail.

When you consider that developers as a group are well paid, in demand and have options, you have to assess what you are doing that is captivating their interest. What is keeping them happy and motivated? What about your company’s culture will result in a successful software development project?

The goal of any company culture should be twofold.

First, it should further company goals. This is usually about productivity, but for some companies it can be about innovation and for others it can be about mission, purpose or something altogether different.

Second, because culture is determined by the people creating it, it needs to further employee goals or it will be a farce. If your employees ruthlessly crave money at all costs (I’m thinking of the energy trading department at Enron), then your culture can support and enforce that mentality. If your team enjoys certain hobbies or activities, your culture can allow them to bring some of that with them to work each day. If they are philanthropic, it can magnify their results beyond what they could achieve outside the office.

Curiously though, all company cultures begin with what every good business begins with: an inspiring vision. Culture needs to be rooted in something that people can rally behind, feel good about and desire to achieve.

Here at WorkXpress, our software developer culture is about productivity, innovation and fun. It all begins with the exciting vision of inventing something that no one has invented before, and changing the way businesses deploy software.

To support this vision, a key principle reinforced by our culture is innovation. We are constantly exploring the meaning of the phrase “outside the box,” and we make it very non-threatening, and even commendable, to suggest off-the-wall ideas.

To implement our ambitious vision on a startup’s budget, exceptionally high productivity levels are essential. We have a culture that is not tolerant of frequent breaks, repeated personal phone conversations during the day or standing around chatting with each other. When it is time to work, we work; and rarely do I notice anyone distracting others or wasting time. Those behaviors are not a part of our culture.

But to keep the edge off, we all need to have fun. At WorkXpress, we are fortunate in that our team is reasonably homogeneous; we have found a few activities that almost everyone enjoys to some extent. As a company, we promote those activities with breaks, early stops, competitions and special events.

Building these elements into your culture is accomplished by questioning behaviors, discussing values and, in our case, keeping things fun. We put a strong reliance on these values and the company culture they inspire, and the results are apparent: Our small team of professional software developers has produced a large, complex software product on a tight budget.

What is your company culture producing?

This was originally posted on the Central Penn Business Journal Gadget Cube.

More Stories By Treff LaPlante

Treff LaPlante has been involved with technology for nearly 20 years. At WorkXpress, he passionately drives the vision of making customized enterprise software easy, fast, and affordable.

Prior to joining WorkXpress, Treff was director of operations for eBay's HomesDirect. While there, he created strategic relationships with Fortune 500 companies and national broker networks and began his foray into the development of flexible workflow software technologies. He served on the management team that sold HomesDirect to eBay.

During his time at Vivendi-Universal Interactive, Treff was director of strategy. In addition to M&A activities, Treff broadly applied quantitative management principles to sales, marketing, and product line functions. Treff served as the point person for the management team that sold Cendant Software to Vivendi-Universal. Earlier positions included product management and national sales trainer for Energy Design Systems, an engineering software company. Treff began his professional career as a metals trader for Randall Trading Corp, a commodities firm that specialized in bartering and transporting various metals and coal from the then-dissolving Soviet Union.

Treff received his MBA from Pepperdine University and a BS in chemical engineering from The Pennsylvania State University. http://www.workxpress.com