Monday, June 27, 2011

pixelmedia, enterasys and culture

I spent a half a day yesterday talking to some friends over at Pixel Media in Portsmouth about culture. It all started when I saw this video. We are talking about doing something similar and since I’ve known some of these guys for in some cases well over 20 years, I figured I’d pick their brains a bit.

First you are probably asking “Why they heck is an IT Infrastructure guy even talking about culture?” and I have to admit it’s a little discussed area but way more important than most of us give it credit for. It’s one of the main reason I love working at Enterasys. I spend actually very little time in what most people consider “real it management work” and spend 30% of my time on internal socialzing, 40% on external customer, partner or industry events and only about 30% of my time on normal IT work. There’s another whole blog post rolling around my head on that for now the main point is culture is important.

The other hat I wear is as the current chairman for an internal group called the “Extended Leadership Team”. There is another whole post on this too, but for now it’s a group of 20 or so volunteers from all over the company whose goal is to make the company a better place. The three topics we are currently focused on are Relationship, Culture and Growth.

So what did I learn at PixelMedia? Well we talked a bit about them and their company. (Very cool company and one of about 4 other companies I would like to work for, if Enterasys wasn’t so cool). Some of the things both companies do include

Peer recognition. We allow everyone to nominate one person a quarter for an award and they get recognized and a $25 gift card. They do something similar but there is no limit to how many peer awards you can put someone in for. The awards are a little smaller, but the reality is the size of the award isn’t that important as much as being able to get a “Thank You” from a coworker.

Company meetings. We both do regular meetings that are more than hearing the revenue numbers. Not that knowing how the company performs isn’t very important, but we both also make the events fun. Both companies had a social event around the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup. We are both based near Boston so that’s a big deal. If the Bruins didn’t win we probably would have had a summer kick-off event instead. The point is to get people together in a relaxed atmosphere.

Executives with a sense of humor. Both companies have an executive team that is friendly, enjoys having fun and can take a joke. They had a nice spoof of Eric Dodier when he won an award, where everyone came in dressed like him carrying a “Pixel Media” football, which happened to be the photo they took of Eric. This was payback for a balloon related incident. At our Bruins event, it just happened to be Brad, one of our VP’s birthday, so our CEO may have let it leak to the entire company. Brad of course was trying to fly under the radar on this one. A relaxed executive team that can have fun and laugh makes for a more relaxed company.

Relationship building mini events. We started cross department lunches to get departments to mingle more. In fact Friday Finance, IT and Sales Ops are having lunch. Pixel did a “Lunch Lottery” where anyone can put their name in and they randomly draw 5-10 names and go to a local restaurant with one of the executives. I like their way better since it makes them more random. We tend to still have people sitting with who they normally sit with and though I keep threatening it. I’m not quite draconian enough to do assigned seating…

Proud heritage. They did a great job of showing off customer wiins, awards and their history going back to the 90’s. Enterasys is working on this in our corporate headquarters and building a “museum” of sorts to show our 30+ year history of innovation. I was struggling with whether it should be just the products, but I’m thinking we should also try and capture some of them other nostalgia of the time.

There’s more but these were the big take-ways some other items we talked about where social responsibility of companies, quality of life and spending time with family and friends and giving back to the community we are in. It was all good stuff and definitely worth the half of a day out of the office. I encourage you to check them out on facebook. They do a great job showing the company personality online, something I think we will get better at.

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