Not easy to copy an engineering culture

One of the elders in my family told me that I will become good at maths if I eat lady’s finger because that is the favourite food of the great mathematician Ramanujan. I believed that firmly and never missed a serving of that whenever it was cooked. I would often practice maths after eating a serving. It went on for a while during the childhood before reality struck me.

We will often see organisations wanting to bring in a change will readily adopt an organisation model from another company. Companies like NASA, Toyota, IBM have inspired management/organisation styles to be replicated like theirs. Adopting something that has been available in the public domain is not going to be of any use. Isn’t it like saying I follow the same things as an oscar winning director and I will win an oscar too?

One of the inclinations people now have is towards the Spotify model which was a matrix organisation with fancy names like squads, tribes, guilds etc. Does the same company follow to the dot on what is available in the public domain from early 2010s? Read this writeup about failed squad goals. This gives an idea that the model has not scaled or worked well for the one who proposed it as well.

Photo by Canva Studio on

An engineering culture is not easy to replicate just by copying the structure and names. Even if it worked for a set of people when implemented, it won’t work well for a long time or when the org grows up. Talent is not a static asset like machine capability that can be made to work in a structure. Government owned enterprises in India were infamous for their quality of work but ISRO which is government owned and has the same bureaucratic organisation, it has exceptional performance in the space program. How come it has the same org structure that has failed every where but works here, it is because of the strong engineering culture left behind by founding engineers which continues to thrive till date.

Before rushing to copy structures, free food, video games, stand ups, OKRs (…the list goes on) the best thing would be is to streamline flow of information between business, product and engineering. Eating the favourite food of a great mathematician does not make me a great mathematician.

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