The Prowareness Culture – Commitment

CommitmentAuthors: Barry Overeem, Marten Meij, Stephan Vlieland

Prowareness is a coaching & consultancy firm with distributed Agile teams located in India. We help organizations transform into software-driven responsive enterprises. In the past few years Prowareness has been growing rapidly. To enable and harness this growth Prowareness uses the “cell philosophy”. When a team (cell) reaches a certain size, it’s divided into two. This ensures the separate teams preserve a maintainable size and further growth is stimulated.

Prowareness has formed its culture along the way and it appears to be a culture with lots of differences compared to traditional organizations. People that enter our office feel this culture right away and are sometimes surprised and intrigued by our approach.

The Prowareness culture is based on 7 values:

Undoubtedly, Prowareness is the most Agile company in the Netherlands. Yes, this is a bold statement. A statement that asks for a more detailed description. Therefore we will write a series of blog posts about our culture. Hereby culture is considered a result of the present mindset, behavior and skills. The areas by which a culture can be influenced are symbols, power structures, organizational structure, control systems, rituals and stories. We will describe the supporting activities and practices Prowareness uses to foster the values.

This blog post will be about the cultural value ‘Commitment’.

Cultural Value – Commitment

Commitment – the act of binding yourself to a course of action. When it comes to commitment, it’s important to emphasize the difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstances permit. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results. Prowareness gives an interpretation to commitment by using practices and behaviors like ‘Accountability’, ‘Impact Number’, ‘Stop Complaining, Start Fixing’, and ‘Impediment #1’.

Practices and Behavior

Accountability

Within Prowareness, commitment comes together with accountability. Being accountable means being responsible for something and also being answerable for your actions. It’s about taking responsibility for outcomes, not activities. Everyone is given the freedom to follow their passion and work on stuff they find most important. However, when someone takes on commitment to plans of action, we do hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans.

As teamwork is another value of Prowareness, accountability can also be referred to in this context. Within a team, accountability is the willingness of team members to call their peers on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team (Lencioni – 5 Dysfunctions of a Team). We encourage this by helping each other set clear goals and expectations, identify the necessary skills and resources, set weekly milestones, give clear feedback and share the consequences.

Impact Number

We used to measure happiness, as indicator of how well we performed at our customers. From the scale of 1 (not happy) till 5 (very happy) the customers could give an indication of their satisfaction towards the services of Prowareness. Instead, we’re going to start an experiment to measure the impact we have at a customer.

The goal of Prowareness is to help organizations transform into software-driven responsive enterprises. A transformation isn’t easy. It’s a radical change, often a completely different way of working. The only way to accomplish this change is to have an impact. We commit ourselves to making the necessary impact at our customers. Hereby we understand that you can’t always be loved by everyone at all times. It’s our job to change people, organizations or the context in which people work. For that, it’s sometimes needed to have functional and constructive conflict to have impact.

The upcoming time we will ask our customers an impact number which will be shown on our website at the personal profile page of every Agile Coach. This profile page will be completed with personal information, MBTI results, earlier achievements etc. This gives customers the opportunity to select an Agile Coach that fits their situation best. Showing this information on our website is hereby another example of our desire to be transparent and open.

Stop Complaining, Start Fixing

“What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.” – Maya Angelou. Prowareness certainly isn’t the ideal organization where everything is great. There’s always room for improvement. So there’s always more than enough stuff to complain about. To a certain degree complaining is fine, it can be considered a healthy way to share frustration and anger. But continuously complaining without trying to do something about it, isn’t appreciated. Because if you don’t try to fix it, you’re nothing but a whiner.

Impediment #1

Within Scrum an impediment is an event that impedes the Development Team from working to their anticipated sprint capacity. It’s a problem that goes beyond the self-organization of the Development Team. Prowareness uses the practice of Impediment #1 to set focus on the most urgent organization-wide problem that needs to be fixed.

During the monthly Company Scrum the entire organization can bring in impediments they experience. The impediment with the most votes will become Impediment #1. People that feel the urge to fix this impediment form a team and commit themselves to finding a solution.

At the following Company Scrum, the team presents the results and jointly determine if the impediment is fixed. Afterwards, the voting for the next Impediment #1 starts. This might be a completely new impediment; it can also be the current impediment because it wasn’t entirely fixed yet.

Examples of Impediment #1 are:

  • The recruitment of new Agile Coaches isn’t sufficient
  • The quality of our presentations at seminars is too low
  • The amount of new assignments is below forecast

Conclusion

Commitment is a value of the Prowareness culture. It’s put in practice by emphasizing accountability, using impact numbers, a focus on fixing instead of only complaining and jointly solving the most urgent problems the organization has. A pitfall with commitment is to confuse it with interest. In general, almost everyone has a certain interest in doing something when the circumstances permit. Only a few will truly commit themselves to a course of action. But luckily it’s the few that can make a difference. Therefore we help each other setting clear goals and expectations and giving honest feedback. Those who show commitment are the ones we value most, because they determine the future of Prowareness. Fortunately, given the amount of people that show true commitment, Prowareness is bound to have a bright future!