Culture and Grokking it at Meta

Diversity of color

Understanding organizational culture is so important to building great products.

I recently worked with a team from the MIT AI Lab, where I worked with Prof. Patrick Winston, the head of the lab. Since then, I joined fast-growing startups, Oracle‘s growth stage, and Meta, while some of these worked at Google. I notice that, as these engineers build an AI product, they go fast to iterate with users, which is both a Google (“Focus on the user and all else will follow”) and Facebook cultural value (“Move fast”).

How do you learn about an organization’s true hashtag#culture if you’re new there? After all, there isn’t an organizational oracle who will tell you what this culture is. And high-level company values often don’t illustrate how a team operates. Their interactions with peer groups determine team culture, and at most companies you work at, you are 3-9 levels below the C-level team that has set the org values.

One technique I use is to understand “Functional Culture”, i.e. the culture of Product Management, Engineering, Design, Research, or Marketing. I see myself as an integrative leader, connecting points of view across functions. I’ve learned this by actually having done engineering, PM, marketing, and transformation roles. You can do the same–but it will take time, like I did. Or, you can learn about microcosmic functional cultures, fast.

Before you get into a room with a cross-functional XFN team on your next product launch–step back and talk to these people about their function’s values. Hopefully, you will learn how marketers are driven by creativity and results, engineers are driven by systemic thinking, PMs are driven by strategic thinking, designers are driven by unlocking the power of personas, and researchers are driven by uncovering insights that were unexplored.

Together, if you lean into uplifting each function’s cultural values in your product plan, you will unlock the key to execution at a level of high performance.

What are your company’s and function’s values? 😁

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