Using Culture to Improve Collaboration

Dinesh Tantri recently shared his experiences on how Thoughtworks is overcoming their “distribution complexity” and improving knowledge and collaboration. Along with selecting the right platform, he talked about the organization and people practices that Thoughtworks have built to support a collaborative work culture:
  • Our belief that culture is the long term advantage not business models
  • Small Offices – We limit the number of people in each office to 150. People get to know each other better, there is better trust and deeper knowledge sharing
  • Open workspaces act as change agents – None of our offices have cubicles – None in leadership team have a private cabin.
  • Loose Hierarchies – our organizational structure resembles a fishnet with “temporary centralization based on purpose and need.
  • Smart Incentives –Peer recognition and intrinsic motivation drive collaborative behavior
  • Informal Communities – We have always had thriving communities & fantastic conversations. None of them are “official” per-se. Most of them are self-assembled groups of passionate people – Irrespective of the platforms we have used in the past [ Mailman, Google Groups etc., ], we have always had intense conversations and debates in these communities. This is a side effect of the kind of people we hire and the traits we look for. Face to face community meetings are another key aspect of the culture. Every region has its own style and rhythm – Friday Pubs, Lunch and Learn sessions etc.,
  • Transparency and trust – This is a key part of our culture – Giving people on the ground access to resources they need and letting them make decisions is a major way of engendering trust. The rule of thumb on the transparency is “as much as people can tolerate “.
For me this really brings out the absolutely crucial importance of selecting people that will contribute to the culture that you are building.

[I wrote this blog originally for Kuliza’s ZaLife blog.You can see the original post here.]


2 thoughts on “Using Culture to Improve Collaboration

  1. i agree with this. i could never see myself working in a large office, i would feel unrecognized, a part of a mass without names. I think small groups work better together too because they all add their own culture like you said and if a department gets too big, there is most likely clashing. Great post!

  2. Well said! It’s so important to know who you are working with and that you all have a common purpose. It’s much easier (and rewarding!) to have this in a small company rather than a large department

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