Saturday, 8 June 2013

Power of the Startup Culture - Small or Big Organization

Everyone knows a thing or two about Startups.  Either they are involved in one or read about one.  The most important thing about the Startups and why it is so exciting is the culture within the startups.  And it is quite true that, even though rare, startup cultures can prevail even in large organizations.  But definitely not without the support of the management.  So that brings us to the question, what exactly is this startup culture and what are the exciting things that are associated with this so called startup culture.  In this article, I am going to point out few things that make together the startup culture.












  • Passion
    • One thing that you get a lot from people working in a startup or a startup setup (like a very small team in a large organization) is plenty of passion.  People are passionate about their work, their team, their product or their service, their organization, their managers, they are passionate about literally everything.
  • Lots of energy
    • The thing that passion brings to the table is the high energy, it almost feels like you have plenty of electricity, we will only need to utilize the energy in an effective way.
  • Group & Individual Ownership
    • People tend to take / have a lot of individual as well as collective ownership in a startup setup.  Every loss of the product/service/company is treated as their personal & team loss and they take collective responsibility and every victory is cherished as their personal and team victory.


  • Uncertainty
    • This is one thing that is available in plenty in a startup setup.  In a startup setup, the customers are unknown, or at least known only partially, the product features are unknown at large, in short the future is uncertain for almost all the startups.  But we eventually start building, making lot of assumptions, which means that there is a lot of uncertainty if those assumptions fail and that typically happens very fast in a startup setup.
  • Scope for research
    • Since there is a lot of uncertainty, there is plenty of scope for research.  The more research you do, the more clarity you get.  The more clarity you get, you tend to come out of that uncertain ring.
  • Small and powerful teams
    • Honestly, how many of you had this feeling that they worked the best in a small team and they felt more powerful, felt more respected and what not.  Generally startup teams are small in numbers but they are powerful in terms of their overall capability.  According to the management theory, the output of a group is always greater than the sum of the outputs of individuals.  That is very true in a startup setup, where you can see that high energy outputs coming out of the entire team as a whole.
  • Sense of freedom
    • Startup teams have a lot of freedom in terms of making decisions and they are not hampered with several constraints unlike traditional team setups.
  • Innovation
    • With freedom comes innovation.  Innovators typically tend to love the freedom they get and try to utilize it to the fullest by coming up with innovative ideas to overcome complex challenges.
  • Sense of fulfilment
    • Each and every individual in a startup setup will have a sense of fulfilment on completion of a feature or an iteration, because they are both individually and collectively responsible for the outcome.
  • Sense of achievement
    • Fulfilment comes from the fact that generally startup teams feel they have achieved a lot and they have a sense of achievement when a particular milestone is achieved.
  • Efficiency
    • Efficiency is one point that is definitely a given in a small startup setup.  Not saying that large teams are not efficient, but by nature, it is always easier to manage/lead/motivate a small team instead of a large team to work at full throttle.
  • Lot of mistakes, lot of learning
    • You can expect a lot of mistakes in a startup setup.  In fact the setup allows just that, but more importantly it also encourages learning from those mistakes.  It is the crucial learning that can help go the startup a long way from where it started.
  • Flatter team structure
    • Notice that I am saying Flatter instead of Flat.  When I say flatter, it means it is flatter than the traditional structure and doesn't mean that it is a completely flat structure.  What a flatter structure advocates is that people tend to be self managing if they are respected enough to get the job done.  Hence there is no need for supervision for anyone, but mentoring and leading the team may be definitely required.
  • Knowledge sharing and mentoring
    • Since teams are small, they rely highly on learning, sharing knowledge and mentoring.  That makes the team far more powerful than they typically are.
  • Team members enjoy each others success
    • Unlike traditional team setups, startup team members typically enjoy each others success and in fact work for everyone to succeed, because even if there is one loose link in the chain, it might drag everyone down.
All these factors make the startup culture more powerful than traditional setups.  From my point of view, is is upto the leaders and managers to inculcate the startup culture into their teams and orgs especially in large ones.  And it is upto every team player to work like a startup team player.  I believe that way we will have more innovations coming up even in large organizations.

Do you have any other points to make why you love to work in a startup or a startup setup in a large organization?  How did you liked those experiences?  Please feel free to share to the benefit of the group.



About the Author

Rajaraman Raghuraman has nearly 8 years of experience in the Information Technology industry focusing on Product Development, R&D, Test Data Management and Automation Testing.  He has architected a TDM product from scratch and currently leads the TDM Product Development team in an IT MNC.  He is passionate about Agile Methodologies and is a huge fan of Product Development, Agile Development and Agile Testing.  He blogs at Test Data Management Blog & Agile Blog.  Connect with him on Google+