Organizational culture is a fascinating topic, and one that is of interest to employees, managers, and entrepreneurs alike. University students scrutinize it in countless case studies. It is the subject of a number of research studies at the university and corporate levels. Everyone agrees that culture is an important factor in the success of an organization. However, no one really knows how to shape it at will. Despite the fact that no scientific means exist to quantify it, the members of an organization can intuitively measure its contents. Despite the fact that we all take an interest in the culture of our organization and its evolution, we seem to be more interested in what’s happening in other organizations. For all of these reasons, I decided to undertake the exercise of painting a picture of Pyxis /studio‘s culture. At the end of this note, we will be able to complete the following sentences: “Working at Pyxis /studio is…” and “Doing business with Pyxis /studio is…”
A little theory
A number of models exist to bring out the culture of an organization. The one I chose to examine was developed in the 1980s by Edgar Schein, former professor of MIT’s Sloan School of Management and an organizational management specialist. It is called “Schein’s model of organizational culture”, and it identifies three levels of culture:
- Artefacts—Artefacts can be tangible or intangible elements, but are nonetheless visible. They represent the concrete shape that organizational culture takes. Examples of artefacts might include logos, slogans, dress codes, workplace layout, etc.
- Values—This level represents the shared values of the members of the organization. They represent concrete and conscious objectives and goals. Individual values are an important component of organizational culture, as culture is made up of individuals with values.
- Assumptions—This third level, the most deeply embedded one according to the model, represents the assumptions that each member of an organization takes for granted, most often unconsciously. These individual assumptions are what we build our scale of values on.
I chose this model as it can be used to dig deeper and qualify the culture of an organization based on its visible elements and concrete actions. A rigorous analysis of these three levels allows us to understand what motivates the actions of an organization, beginning at its most visceral level. Further, the results of this exercise can be used to identify the aligning elements between each of the levels as well as the paradox elements, previously inexplicable.
Constructing the model
Rather than making myself an outside observer of Pyxis /studio, I decided to use a more participatory approach. I asked a question to all close collaborators and employees, and their answers helped me partially complete the Schein model. The question was the following: “In no more than thirty seconds, describe /studio to me in one word.” Answers were as diverse as the respondents themselves. The following table represents the complete model derived from the answers received.
Lines marked with an asterisk are not direct answers to the question above. The values of collaboration, adaptability, and individuals and interactions are taken directly from the Manifesto for Agile Software Development and are integrated into the culture at the corporate level. Transparency is a strong value at the corporate level that /studio inherits. Quality, innovation, and passion are three values specific to Pyxis’ software development /studio. As for beliefs, I had to formulate sentences whose truth was impossible to question by the members of the organization, and on which our shared values could be built. The values interact with these beliefs as follows:
- Collaboration as well as individuals and interactions are based on the intrinsic sociability of Pyxissians.
- Quality, innovation, and passion are based on the love that Pyxissians have for their profession.
- Adaptability, transparency, innovation and passion are based on Pyxissians’ profound desire to continually strive to excel.
Walk the walk
The conclusions of the model are just hot air if there is no evidence to back them up. As they say: “You talk the talk, but do you walk the walk?” During my three years at Pyxis /studio, I identified a few concrete actions that support its culture.
Pyxis /studio helps start-ups
For a little over two years, /studio has been targeting projects with start-up companies rather than seeking contracts from large companies or government bodies. Pyxis /studio strongly believes in the contribution that start-ups make to the Quebec economy and their impacts on the creation of societal value. Further, more often than not, this market segment shares the values of the organization. Lastly, when /studio strongly believes in the project tabled by an entrepreneur, it is prepared to invest in it and to share the risk with them.
Pyxis promotes the personal and professional development of Pyxissians
At the corporate level, Pyxis offers all Pyxissians the necessary resources (material, financial, or even human) for them to reach their highest potential. Employees are encouraged to undertake a professional coaching program with one of our certified coaches. Moreover, Pyxis also encourages employees to pursue training programs such as Convivium’s Integral Development Coaching program, Université Laval’s Complexité, conscience et gestion (Complexity, conscience, and management) course, or any other accredited program designed for personal or professional development.
Pyxis awards salary hikes democratically
For the past few years, employee salaries have been public information within the company. For the past year, Pyxis has been incorporating a democratic process for awarding annual salary raises. The objective is to create an environment in which all employees are comfortable with their salary and those of their peers. This process takes the form of a discussion within the business units. All employees have the opportunity to highlight to their peers the reasons for which they are requesting a pay raise. This process is constantly evolving and is adapted every year based on feedback provided by participants.
Pyxis makes financial information public
It is rather uncommon for private companies to disclose financial information to their entire staff. Pyxis publishes monthly reports that analyze the company’s financial performance. Management openly discusses these reports with Pyxissians and is open to any suggestion that might improve performance.
A client? No, a teammate
The relationship between a client and /studio is different from that between a client and a service provider. Pyxis /studio invests in the success of the project and considers the client to be a member of the team. In the event that the client is able to dedicate a full-time resource to its project, we encourage that person to work from Pyxis’ offices, to stop being a resource person and become a member of the team. A small gesture made by /studio that might seem trivial: every year, we invite /studio‘s teammates to the company’s Christmas party.
Pyxis /studio as guest speakers
Pyxis /studio gives a number of presentations at events such as the Stratégies PME, ConFoo, Agile Tour Montréal and MSDEVMTL. These presentations demonstrate /studio’s know-how and expertise to the market. This would not have been possible if Pyxis didn’t encourage its employees to excel by pushing them to become leaders in their respective communities.
Pyxis /studio is…
Working for Pyxis /studio means collaborating with individuals who thoroughly love their profession and are constantly striving to excel, putting passion and innovation into every project they undertake.
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