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:
- Continuous learning
- Energy & craziness
- Openness and transparency
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 ‘Integrity’.
Cultural Value – Integrity
Integrity is where values and actions meet. In this blog series we demonstrate how our values are carried by actual practices and how those values and practices shape our culture. We feel strong about our culture and helping our customers developing their culture is what drives us. Only if we practice what we preach, every day, we can stay true to our values. Practices like being Trusted Advisors, Unlimited Vacation Days and Prowareness over Customers.
Prowareness over Customers
That is, while we value the item on the right (a lot!), we value the item on the left more.
This comes from a strong belief that we can have the most valuable impact at our customers, only if we keep investing in ourselves. For example the fact that we choose to get together every Tuesday to work on continuous improving Prowareness, no exception. If we would put the customer first and start skipping the Tuesdays, a growing company like Prowareness would quickly lose its cohesion and become less valuable for our customers. This stretches to the point that we won’t sacrifice our values even at the risk of losing a business opportunity.
A good real life example would be a situation where a big business opportunity emerged from a new customer in the shape of a high profile Request For Proposal (RFP). The only opportunity to pitch our proposal was on a first Tuesday of the month, during our monthly Company Scrum. Being truthful to our values we respectfully declined to pitch our proposal and explained our reasons why. In the end this proof actually led to winning the RFP, precisely because we stayed true to our values.
Unlimited Vacation Days
One of the benefits of working at Prowareness is to have unlimited vacation days. As long as you contribute to the company goals and respect the interests of your colleagues and clients, vacation is completely up to the Propassional. It is a practice that has proven to be valuable for many different organizations and often leads to an equal or less number of vacation days, reduced sick leave and higher employee engagement and entrepreneurship.
The message behind unlimited vacation days is trust and respect for the individuals that shape Prowareness, by giving them freedom within boundaries. An example of such a boundary is that every team within Prowareness has a profit margin target. This is a team commitment. Within that boundary the team and its Propassionals have all the freedom to organize their professional and private lives. What it comes down to is that we treat each other as human beings. As a result we have become a self-organizing, intrinsic motivated tribe.
The Trusted Advisor
In 2000 the author David Maister teamed up with Charles H. Green and Robert M. and published a book called The Trusted Advisor. This book became a best selling and inspiring tool for consultants around the world. Within this book they explore how being successful in business depends on your ability to build a relationship of trust with your clients. The authors describe how trust doesn’t have to be a fuzzy concept. They elaborate on this with the help of the trust equation, which uses four objective variables to measure trustworthiness:
Trustworthiness = (Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy) / Self-Orientation
Also for the Prowareness consultants The Trusted Advisor is and has been a great source of inspiration. Everything we do comes from a genuine desire to help our clients becoming even better and reach a ‘state of awesome’. The trust equation is a tool that makes us aware of tangible practices that help make us worthy of our client’s trust.
Our mission is to help our clients transform into software-driven responsive enterprises. Having guided and implemented many transformations at a large variety of clients we like to think of ourselves as subject matter experts. And we probably are. But most of all this experience has made us humble enough to acknowledge that every agile transformation journey is unique and in the end needs a healthy dose of genuine curiosity and common sense.
It is not uncommon that one of our consultants will advise a client not to do business with us. The transformations we help our customers with can have a fundamental impact on their organization and culture. Such a collaboration can only work on a solid foundation of mutual trust and loyalty. That implies that we won’t press our services if it doesn’t match the client’s needs. At Prowareness we try hard not to fear losing the business, as Patrick Lencioni describes in his book Getting Naked:
Worrying about losing a client’s business may cause you to avoid doing the very things that ultimately engender loyalty and trust.
Continuing on the reliability explanation, we often help our clients going through a transformation of their organization and culture. The quality of such a collaboration has a big impact on both our clients and ourselves, which means that at some point our collaboration naturally turns into an intimate business relationship. We share the pain and learning of our failures and celebrate our successes together.
Looking back at the Trust Equation self-orientation sits alone in the denominator, therefore is the most important variable in the Trust Equation. High self-orientation easily eliminates trust-worthiness. As a consultant, on a regular basis you will find yourself in a conversation with someone that is asking for your advice. One of the best advices I got from one of my Prowareness colleagues on how to approach such a conversation is to be aware that your conversation partner is at least 50% right. In other words, always be aware of your own assumptions and preconceptions. Or to quote Stephen Covey: “Seek First to Understand then to be Understood”
British novelist C.S. Lewis once gave a very powerful definition of integrity:
Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching.
With that quote in mind one could challenge me and my co-authors on why we are writing blogs about the practices that shape the cultural values of Prowareness. I would say that is an excellent question. And I must admit, it sometimes can feel a little bit awkward to publish our practices. What it justifies for me is the fact that I often get inspired by stories from others and the least we can do is to share some stories of our own. In the hope to inspire others as well and clearly send the message: In order to build a culture you have to walk the talk. Be the culture you want to be part of.