The Prowareness Culture – Openness and Transparency

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:

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 ‘Openness and Transparency’.

Cultural Value – Openness and Transparency

‘No secrets’ is a statement you will hear a lot at the Prowareness headquarters. The fact this post about our internal affairs is posted without having to ask anyone for permission, is typical for our culture. There is a deep sense of trust in one another, which enables each Propassional to be transparent about actions and outcome, success and failure. A culture of openness and transparency doesn’t emerge by itself. It is fuelled by open minded people and practices of transparency, like our ‘Wall of Transparency’, ‘Customer Feedback’, ‘No hidden agenda’s’ and ‘No Backdoor’.

Practices

Wall of Transparency

Talking about practices: if you take your cultural values seriously, you have to practice what you preach. At our headquarters in Delft (The Netherlands) we take this quite literally with our Wall of Transparency. One of the office walls is completely designed to visualize all kinds of information: salaries, bonuses, team backlogs and company KPI’s like sales pipelines, order intakes, impact metrics and recruitment numbers. The wall is a living document and continuously updated and expanded with more information. Most important, it is open to anybody that walks into the office, not just the employees. No secrets! Remember?

If you want to know what the Wall of Transparency looks like, come and visit our office! Or watch this interactive tour on youtube (use smartphone with youtube app for the best experience).

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Customer Feedback

One of the most important rituals that safeguards the Prowareness culture takes place every Tuesday afternoon and evening, as can be read in the Teamwork blog that was published earlier in this series. The first Tuesday of the month is our ‘Company Scrum’ where we literally put the customer central: We invite them in our home as our guests, place them in the middle of the Prowareness crowd and ask for their feedback. In return the customers can present a burning question or idea they have and we will try to help them with that. This way they get an unique opportunity to deep dive into the subject together with the collective knowledge and experience of a group of experts. Not only helps this continuous learning for both our customers and ourselves, it also builds trust. Feedback is the mechanism for continuous improvement and we ask for it early and often.

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No hidden agenda’s

Another simple example of living the value of openness and transparency is the fact that we have a gentlemen’s rule of ‘no hidden agenda’s’. Both figurative and literally, we appreciate it a lot if people are transparent about their activities. Or, as our CEO Vikram Kapoor stated it recently: “We aren’t the secret service, or are we?” Besides a sign of trust and respect, having a transparent agenda also contributes to a more effective planning of activities. Ever wanted to schedule a meeting, only to find fully booked agenda’s without any slack or clue about what is hiding under those stacks of apparent business? It can turn finding a convenient time and location into a frustrating, if not impossible, challenge.

No Backdoor

Every time a new colleague joins Prowareness there is a celebration moment with speeches and champagne. The one that hired the new Propassional tells why he or she is such a great new asset to the company and the new kid on the block introduces him- or herself to the crowd.

This practice in itself is probably not so extraordinary. Where it gets more interesting is the fact that people won’t leave silently either. Whenever someone leaves the company, for whatever reason, this news and the motivation behind it is also shared with the company. And anybody can ask or even challenge why this decision was made and by whom. Nobody leaves Prowareness quietly, there is no back door.

Conclusion

Responsive enterprises are built on an empirical feedback loop of Transparency, Inspection and Adaption. In order to inspect and adapt you have to be able to rely on your observations, so focus on Transparency first. An open culture nurtures transparency.  An open culture in which everyone feels safe enough to give and receive feedback, challenge the status quo, both on professional and personal level.

The examples in this blog are proof that openness and transparency are more than a slogan. These are values that can be nurtured through explicit and relatively simple practices. It’s not that hard actually, JFDI!