Questions

I had my first job at this company and worked there for 2.5 years. They develop both hardware and software for a creative niche market (which is loved by users). The company was never very profitable but they have some pretty intelligent engineers. They patented some very interesting new technologies recently which can boost their size. They had financial problems some years ago and one of the partners (who came as a VC) corroded the company's culture for 5 years, he micromanaged and scared people all the time. I left the company because of this guy and now I'm coming back (he left). I'm coming back as a UX designer but I have respect from some people there. Couple of problems at the company: -Lack of communication -Things move slowly despite they "transitioned" into agile -Some people became comfortable and are working part-time while running other businesses -Tend to pay low salaries -Not data driven, using old business models -Not very collaborative and became too engineer centered (complicated products, too many features) The good thing is that they are not very hierarchical and don't have HR or directors, so no politics I really care about this company and I believe I need somehow to improve the culture if I want to make a difference. I want not just to do UI, but actually help improve the product experience, customer experience. What would be the first step to change? Is implementing analytics and making people more accountable the first thing to do? Sometimes I feel that is really hard to motivate people when they already became too comfortable.

There are a lot of similarities in your situation to my last company, where I started at the bottom in project management and ended up CEO after a few management turnovers and the Board put me in charge. My thoughts are based on seeing cultural transition from all angles.

1. It is very, very hard to effect meaningful, long term change in the company from the bottom. What is the ownership structure of the company? Who are the managers and what is their sense of urgency in effecting change? I fear it's not much, given the situation you describe.

2. You really can't hold people accountable directly but you can try to inspire from the bottom to achieve new goals. I would not focus on "analytics" but just come up with _one_ simple, measurable goal that the team can agree on and work toward together. It's like getting a really overweight person to lose weight - start simple, with walks around the block. Once a new habit is established, move on to the next one.

3. Have you identified others in the org that share your desire to improve things, and enlisted them 1-1? Cultural/organizational change takes a lot of emotional energy. You need allies or you will go crazy.

Would be happy to get on a call and get more details and work through tactics if you are interested.

Best,
Karl


Answered 5 years ago

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