“The Lean Startup” or “Experimental Entrepreneurship” are strategies adopted by small teams innovating in conditions of extreme uncertainty. However these strategies will succeed only if we have the right organizational culture. Culture is a set of assumptions about values of an organization as perceived by its employees, vendors and customers. Getting it right at inception is important because culture is hard to change once the die is cast.
Intuit is a company which calls itself a company of a thousand startups seems to have gotten it right. Every employee is a leader- innovator and is not limited to the R & D team. Innovative ideas are incubated in 5 day workshops where even employees of their Legal Department participate as members of cross functional teams. Brad Smith himself ensures that he doesn’t become a bottleneck by letting others lead. He strongly believes that “Star Culture” where “A Genius” leads many people doesn’t work.
Innovative Structure Breeds Great Work Culture
Another example of innovation in organizational structure is WordPress. It’s a company that has no office. With 225 employees spread across 190 locations is undoubtedly the most distributed team. Teams get together at exotic destinations every quarter to bond with each other. Their headquarter, in San Francisco, is not used by anyone on most days. Yet it’s the most successful blogging platform with more than 20 million blogs powered by it. They achieved this success by hiring the best. Every one gets hired on a trial basis. “You can’t manage your way out of a bad team”- says Matt Mullenweg. In the first few weeks of the trial every one has to work in customer support understanding the type of problems customers face. There is no change in compensation when one becomes or stops being a lead developer. Leads are rotated to facilitate cross-pollination between teams.