The Sky Factory

A major challenge, of many growing companies, is encouraging workers to help in building the company; and not to simply be there to get a paycheck. So, this issue has led management teams to focus on; building collaborative work cultures and incorporating shared visions among employees of their; respective companies.; In building a deeper perspective into this challenge, you will be reading a case study, on page 302 – 303; of our ebook, that focuses on a company called The Sky Factory®. Once you read the Real-World Case; on this Company, and complete your additional outside research, address the following questions:; (please note the questions here are slightly different than those in the ebook and you should only; address the questions that follow here.);  Many successful companies practice open-book management that includes disclosing financial; information to all employees. What are the potential benefits of this disclosure?;  Why would some companies not want employees to have access to all information in a; company, including financial information?;  How do you think owning a piece of a company, through profit sharing or stock options, affects; employees’ attitudes?;  Besides open-book management and profit sharing, how else can The Sky Factory motivate; employees?;  Based on the company you would like to start, how would you ensure that you build a; collaborative work culture that incorporates a shared vision among your employees? What are; the advantages and disadvantages of your strategy here; Case Study; the Art of Corporate Culture:; the sky Factory’s Five principles; perhaps only an artist would want to create a company in which the com- pany itself is as much a work of art as the products it produces. about building a company, Bill Witherspoon, painter and founder of the Sky Fac- tory, told Inc. Magazine that “both painting and company-building start with a blank canvas. In a painting you create beauty with the addition of each brush stroke. In a company you create it with the addition of each tal- ented, engaged person and with each thoughtful act.”1 he decided to apply artistic principles to building and managing a company.; Witherspoon’s vision was truly about visions. Noticing that most work- ers today are enclosed in esthetically unappealing closed rooms—or, if they have windows, the windows look out on less-than-inspiring streets or industrial areas—he decided to create and market “virtual windows.” What’s a virtual window? exactly what it sounds like. Using high-resolution backlit images, acrylic tiles, and daylight-quality lighting, the Sky Factory opens up vistas of mountains, oceans, forests, or any other beautiful scenes you can imagine—by projecting virtual windows on walls (or skylights on ceilings). In the process, he’s enchanted architectural designers, art publications, Feng shui enthusiasts, naturalists, interior designers, and technologists. Judging by the coverage in the mainstream press, including Inc., the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, he’s succeeded in building a beauti- ful company as well.; the Sky Factory’s customers are typically businesses that operate in industrial urban environments, in buildings with little or no natural light and—if they even have windows—no stunning views. Using a mixture of technology, video, and animation, the Sky Factory turns such drab spaces into inspiring work areas in which employees look out onto tranquil lakes, leafy forests, or snow-capped mountains. Best of all, the virtual views are dynamic: the wind blows ripples onto the lakes, the forest trees sway with the breeze, snow falls on the mountain tops. the Sky Factory achieves all this while also bathing the room in natural light that’s perfectly aligned with the scene being viewed out the virtual window. You might think that such beauty could be distracting. Yet studies have shown that productivity actually goes up, not down, when employees have such pleasing scenes to rest their eyes on.; as innovative as the Sky Factory’s products are, its management phi- losophy is even more forward-looking. Its secret sauce for building a beau- tiful—and highly profitable—company? Five cultural principles: transpar- ency, flat-hive management, consensus, service, and performance.; Transparency means that, with the sole exception of private personal matters and compensation, there are no secrets in the company. From Witherspoon down to the part-time administrative assistant, everyone possesses as much knowledge as anyone else. For example, all financials for the company—sales, costs, profits— are disclosed to the entire company at weekly team meetings so that everyone understands the business’s financial stability.; “Flat-hive” management means that all workers are considered equals. Flat management starts with the principle that there are no managers and supervisors, and there are only owners. With- erspoon explained that “my first decision was to give people the opportunity to purchase discounted ownership, and 100 percent of employees have participated. the responsibility for revenue and profit b e l o n g s t o e v e r y o n e .” to t h a t e n d , s e l f – m o t i v a t e d e m p l o y e e s p a r t i c i p a t e i n multiple job-teams, each charged with a different function within the com- pany. Because Witherspoon is wise enough to know that meetings of work- groups can easily deteriorate if no one is in charge, each one has a facilita- tor—but the facilitator responsibility circulates among members of the group. all employees get their turn at facilitating. the goal: each employee learns how to do everything within the company.; the core value of “consensus” means that all business decisions are made by agreement arrived at both by small teams and—for larger deci- sions—by the entire company as a whole.; Service is the single most important value, because it brings everything together. Witherspoon says it’s core to both the employee and customer communities. But he distinguishes between two attitudes that businesses can bring to service. the most common attitude is that the business does something for the customer—and then expects a return. For example, most organizations that care about customer service do so because they hope to receive, in return, customer loyalty and higher revenues per sale. By contrast, Witherspoon subscribes to the other idea of service—the self- less kind. “I do something for you without thought of a return. I help you spontaneously and without thinking about it.”; Finally, performing well is applying all the other four concepts to the ultimate goal of superb results. and performance, to folks at the Sky Fac- tory, means a great deal more than financial performance. It means deliv- ering quality products, and having pride of ownership in everything each employee does.; Witherspoon makes clear how creating that service experience for both its customers and workers matters: “that appreciation of what we are doing is what keeps great people here, and great people will ensure that the Sky Factory endures. after all, that’s what great art does. endures.”

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