I think startup culture is very powerful. It can occur on startups, on established company, even on large mamoth corporations. A startup culture foster innovation, creativity at solving day-to-day problems, a higher risk-reward approach, etc.
The flip side is old-company mentality. You know the type of company I'm talking about: Ten layers of bureaucracy, endless unproductive meetings, work scoped so thinly that nobody has true ownership of a piece of the product (nor accountability).
Well, this morning I was reading what was supposed to be a great blog post by Naffziger, a VP of Engineering at Judy's Book, and it talked about when great people don't convert into great teams (for me there is a simple word that describe why this happens: synergy). He gives 5 tips to "fix" that, but the first one was really painful:
"Clearly define responsibilities. Managers need to clearly define the boundaries between responsibilities and ensure those boundaries are upheld. Team members need to be congratulated for excelling in their role and discouraged when they unproductively stray into someone else’s role."
That is a tip that I would expect coming out of Microsoft's Core Competencies cards, not from somebody working in a startup.
My view on this is that if you have people that are "unproductively straying into someone else's role" you have two bad people on your team: the person "straying" for unproductively and the person that is uncapable of receiving input on his/her work.
On startups everybody needs to know what everybody else is doing. More than that, anyone should be able to influence somebody else's work without creating chaos. If they are either creating chaos or being unproductive, they are not fit for a startup.
I would go as far as to say that overlap of responsabilities is a good thing in startups, contrary to well established companies. If both persons are really capable and "hungry", they will not fight, but seek each others input at making their part better. If they fight, there is lack of synergy and it doesn't matter how "A-players" they are, it won't work.
About the other 4 tips that Naffziger gives they are not bad (or great). They are just common sense that some times need to be said (written) out-loud (in a blog): Highlight success, encourage feedback, increase feelings of security and let time work.
UPDATE: Dave Naffziger just added a thoughtful comment making his point clearer.