The Prowareness Culture – Continuous Learning

Authors: 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:

  • Teamwork
  • Continuous learning
  • Energy & craziness
  • Commitment
  • Ambition
  • Openness and transparency
  • Integrity

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 second blog post will be about the cultural value ‘Continuous Learning’.

Continuous Learning
Value 2 – Continuous Learning

How do you truly innovate? One means of doing so is by continuously learning; a two-fold definition according to us. First, you gain new insights by acquiring knowledge. Second, to let the learning-effect come full circle you will need to test and play around with these insights in an experimental setting; a setting where its understood that failure and mistakes are a natural part of the ‘eco system’. Learning from your mistakes, be it well confined within the boundaries of this experimental setting, is an immense catalyst for knowledge retention. Prowareness believes that when given the proper boundaries combined with a psychologically safe environment, learning is maximized, which in term secures innovation.

Prowareness tends to create this safe environment by applying practices such as ‘Bootcamp’, ‘Buddy System’, ‘Guilds’, ‘Mistake of the month’, ‘Vision groups’ and ‘Training budget’

Practices

Bootcamp

At the heart of the Prowareness onboarding program, lies the Bootcamp. The Bootcamp is an intensive three-day training where newly joined ‘Propassionals’ get all the insights of Prowareness, based on pillars like history, culture and way of working. Our most experienced consultants, recruiters and sales leads will supply the new lot with all the tools and knowledge they need to get a head start. And to let that learning-effect come full circle, the latter part of the Bootcamp focusses on testing and playing around with the knowledge gained; all new Propassionals will set up an Agile transformation at a (fictional) company from start to finish.

Buddy System

Every Propassional is paired up with a buddy: a colleague who may act as coach or sparring-partner. The buddy system allows us to share our experiences, voice opinions on subject matters and ask for help in a one-to-one setting. Propassionals are given complete freedom to choose the buddy of their liking, and are also responsible for creating their own format and conversation-frequency.

Guilds

In the middle ages, free craftsmen would often make use of guilds as a means to hone their skills and share experiences with each other in their related field. Though a very old concept, the essence of guilds are still alive and kicking. It’s a practice we wouldn’t want to live without. Prowareness conducts several guild sessions in parallel once a month. Every guild session has a topic to a specific field of expertise. Propassionals are free to attend any of the guild sessions, based on their field of interest or liking. During a session, the topic will be explored and heavily discussed with participants. All insights that are gained during these parallel sessions are being presented afterwards in a plenary demo, so all information will be shared and available to all.

Mistake of the Month

Every month at our Company Scrum, we give way to an item we like to call ‘mistake of the month’. All Propassionals are encouraged to stand up and talk openly about a grave mistake they made, with the whole of Prowareness listening as the audience. More importantly than openly admitting you made a mistake is the psychological effect: everybody in the audience refrains from judgement and analyzes the effects behind the mistake in an open manner, and discusses possible alternatives to prevent the mistake from happening in the future. In doing so, we create an environment where it’s safe to learn and experiment.

Admitting mistakes in front of more than a hundred Propassionals takes courage. That’s why we reward this courage by offering a private parking spot for a month to the Propassional who made the biggest mistake.

Vision Groups

Prowareness believes that learning is cultivated through passion. Propassionals are greatly encouraged to follow their passion by attending so called vision groups. A vision group is a group of likeminded people with similar interests bonded by a theme. Every month, these groups come together to work on deliverables that are the result of their combined passion. A concrete example of such a deliverable is the article you are reading right now; the Prowareness Culture Vision Group is a happy lot of people who are passionate about the culture of Prowareness – they strongly want to convey this culture to the world. Other examples of deliverables of this group are the ‘Prowareness Theme Song’ and an interactive book which consist of interviews with Propassionals related to the company culture.

Training Budget

Who else but you can make the best decision upon which area you want to develop and learn? We thought so too. That’s why you won’t find a rigid training curriculum linked to roles or functions within Prowareness. Instead, we facilitate the freedom to let Propassionals choose for themselves by offering an annual training budget. Propassionals can spend this budget to their liking on courses, trainings, seminars and certifications.

Conclusion

The tendency to continuously learn is hard-wired into the DNA of all Propassionals. Not only learning, but also sharing new insights to other Propassionals and our customers is paramount to us. At Prowareness we elevate the process of learning above possible outcome. By shifting the focus on the process instead of results, we believe that continuous learning is no longer a means to achieve results, but rather an intrinsic value you will find in all of us.