Why Managing Cultural Bias Is The Key For Scaling Teams?
Cultural debt occur when we decide to act not according to what we perceive as part of the team culture, usually it’s the things we don’t sleep at well after making them - recruiting someone with different personality to what we are used to, promoting someone while many deserve it, changing managers, stealthy processes, merging teams with different cultures and so on. Those decisions would be the right thing to do for the business, product or development needs, but they create potential cultural debts. Our reactions and decisions are highly correlated with previous experiences and choices we did in the past, and this create a bias to anything new, that’s why teams need to manage it, just like bugs / features - using excel, Trello, Jira whatever works.
So why tracking cultural debts is important?
- Learning to appreciate the small decisions and trade offs that define the culture
- Adapting the culture proactively, respectfully.
- Discovering how your employees capture the company culture.
When I was a junior developer, I wanted to participate in every important meeting, I considered myself to be crucial for discussions about the product, the vision, the algorithms etc. I was able to provide great valuable insights from my point of view. From a cultural perspective, the company culture wasn’t fixed yet on who should attend each meeting, but it was clear that having big meetings is not productive at all. On the other hand, blocking a young enthusiast junior developers from insightful meetings create an emotional cultural debt. There is no right or wrong here, just a debt that should be treated. Now that I have experienced this dilemma from different perspectives, I know what culture decision I would do back then if I were the CEO.
Teams shouldn’t solve culture inconsistency just by aligning people using “our company culture” presentations or by having “code fast” posters on the walls. Culture is a process, built to evolve, just like code. Culture is defined by people, not by the ministry of culture.