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A Brief Background To The Organisation Pixar Commerce Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Commerce
Wordcount: 5479 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Pixar Animation Studios is an American Academy Award winning film studio based in California, United States. With its technical, creativity and production capabilities to create a new generation of animated feature films, merchandise and other related products, Pixar is one of the most critically acclaimed film studios of all time.

The working environment at Pixar is really relaxed because Pixar is a flexible employer with excellent employees’ benefits and a relaxed working atmosphere. Pixar does offer a social environment in which there are a number of informal employee-oriented physical activities. Pixar constantly encourage continuing education by organizing classes on drawing, improvisational comedy, story structure and various other topics.

There is no dress code or anything like that in Pixar. “Part of working at Pixar is understanding production demands, and managing your time accordingly,” insiders say. But despite the demanding positions, employees say working at Pixar “is not good, it’s great,” and many feel the same as one production engineer who says, “I can’t think of a better place to work for.”

Introduce the central issue to the organisation that you think is appropriate

The success of the company has been termed as dramatic and inspirational for other firms in the creative industry segment. The much talked about Pixar culture provides an interesting insight into how an organization can nurture the creative talents of its employees across different levels. The research paper explores the different dimensions of the Pixar culture and core value and belief to understand the ways in which the organization has expanded its creative potentials to become one of the most innovative organizations in the industry. The objective of the paper is to analyse the impacts of the people management practices adopted at Pixar in promoting a creative work environment.

Outline, justify and briefly explain the theoretical framework (or frameworks) you will use to conduct your analysis of the chosen central issue relating to the organisation.

Theoretical analysis provides any research work with the necessary facts and evidence that support the research findings and implications. In this section, the paper will focus on analysing the organizational culture of Pixar through two distinctive models – the “Schein Culture Model” and “Handy (1985) Model of culture.” The study of these two theoretical dimensions enable a deeper insight and understanding of how the structural design and practices within an organization shapes its workplace environment and employee attitudes. The study and understanding of these two theoretical dimensions have been used to analyse the Pixar culture that promotes creativity through an enabling work culture.

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Using the theoretical framework(s) that you have identified critically analyse Pixar

Schein Model

Using Schein’s model, understanding paradoxical organizational behaviors and company internal culture becomes more feasible and apparent. Since organizational culture complements rational managerial tools and plays an indirect role in influencing employees’ behavior, it is one of the most significant elements that contributes to the success of a company and therefore need to be thoroughly investigated.

First Layer – Artefacts

The first and most cursory level of Schein’s model is known as artifacts. Included are the facilities, offices, furnishings, organizational attributes that can be seen and the way that its members visibly interact with each other and with organizational outsiders. Linking now the understanding of artifacts to the specific case of Pixar, it is undeniably that one of the most important artefacts that is strongly relate and contribute to Pixar world acclaim success is its outstanding and innovative open office landscapes and design.

According to … it’s been proven that physical surroundings play a vital role in one’s well-being, happiness and creativity. From the moment a person glimpse the exterior of Pixar’s sixteen-acre Emeryville, California, campus it’s clear that Pixar surely has taken this truth to the heart and that establishing and managing a creative climate was a carefully thought plan.

Moreover, unlike a regular movie studio where everyone have their own office with separate buildings for each department, Pixar on the other hand with an attempt to achieve the highest level of effective communication and people engagement put aside the idea of multiple-building in favour of the single unit. This type of workplace design not only would enhance a free flow of information but also allow people to interact naturally and have fun.

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Bill Capodagli in an interview with the Credit Union Magazine recently commented that the success behind Pixar lay in its conceptualisation of a corporate playground that enabled its employees to relax and enjoy within the organization. “When you go there, you may see people playing football or swimming in an Olympic sized pool. It has created an atmosphere where work is fun – working hard and playing hard” (Capodagli – Credit Union, 2010). Pixar has adopted an open office design that enables its employees to share ideas, conceptualise new designs and initiate new practices for effective results.

With reference to Van de Voordt (2004), modern day organisation must design its organisation to better suit its activities and the need of its workforce…………. Indeed, most buildings are designed for some functional purpose so does Pixar’s. Pixar building is structured to maximize inadvertent encounters and get people from different departments to interact. To elaborate, Pixar’s CEO, Steve Jobs positioned the mailboxs, meeting rooms, cafeteria and bathrooms in the center atrium because he realized that when people casually interact and have fun, good things happen and constructive ideas are exchanged.

In fact, since Pixar is a type of organization that thrives on creativity and interaction among its members and largely depends on the knowledge and ideas being freely exchanged and shared, such design will lead to more efficient use of space and facilities and consequently lead to improved performance of the organisation as well as its employees. Precisely, one of the most obvious benefits such thing brings is that it would enhance communication, and allow better flow of ideas and information throughout the company.

Additionally, it is contention that knowledge workers will increasingly seek to achieve a balance between work and personal life (…). … suggested that among the top list of employees’ primarily concern is gaining pleasure from their work. Consequently, it’s clear that encouraging highly value and well-educated workers to remain for longer will require a new, more flexible and friendlier type of workplace, one that reconciles their tensions between personal life and work.

It was noted by McElroy & Morrow (2010), the creative focus of the organization has been on harnessing its human resource potentials to the optimum through the application of aesthetic organizational principles (appendix p. …). To be exact, this involves providing its employees with a work environment that is most informal with all amenities and luxuries that enable the stimulation of the creative senses of the workforce (Buzalka, 2006).

Pixar’s animation department has the most fabulously decked-out work space one could imagine. The atrium at Pixar is decorated with larger-than-life statues of Pixar characters and concept paintings on the walls, with storyboards and color scripts in clear view. Pixar’s rolling, sixteen-acre campus also includes offices, studio and sound rooms, screening rooms, a lap pool, volleyball courts, and a soccer field all of which make for a welcome escape from the daily grind.

Such initiatives contribute to organizational productivity by providing the employees with a suitable physical environment to work in. It was noted by … open structure encourages more communication and facilitates an easier exchange of knowledge and skills. This means such type of building enables employees to move freely as they like and ask anyone they believe may add value to their work independently of their position.

Despite the fact that these elements may seem useless and a waste of effort to some companies, it has been proven that they actually bring added visual, morale and productivity improvements when compared to the institutional look of monotonous, monochromatic single-height cubicles.

According to … the relationship between office design and productivity is not new (appendix p. …). This view is further support by a recent national Gallup study. Base on the study, organizational aesthetic goes a long way in fostering a motivating working environment and satisfactory workplace. On this account, by allowing the employees to involve and participate in their workplace design strengthen the interconnectedness sense of belonging in the organization.

In fact, a 2003 survey by Management Today magazine reported that the majority of the respondents claimed that they regard their place of work as a symbol of whether or not they were valued by their employer. Looking at Pixar workplace, it can be said that Pixar not only sees their employees as brains of the organization but also treat them as valuable assets that play an important part and largely contribute to the success of the organization.

With employee, contemplation and effective communication at the very heart of its design schemes Pixar is definitely the place where professionals or peers who share a skill or specialism can come to be inspired. This very well reflects the company culture and links to organization value in the second layer of Schein organization culture model.

In short, in spite of the fact that most organizations are by default separated in silos and people act out work within these silos, Pixar directly challenge the habit of silo by demonstrating the importance of having freedom to communicate with anyone within an organization. Looking at Pixar all round visibility building and the activities occurring within it provides a sense of social animation right at the heart of the Den type of office design (appendix p. …) in Duffy (1997) dedicated to attracting and retaining the top talent in the field.

Second Layer – Values

According to some estimates, 85% of organization failures are related to the mismanagement of cultural issues. Awareness of cultural differences is then an issue of primary concern for modern day organization which Pixar is no exception. The professed culture of an organization’s members or the organization itself is regard as “Value” in Schein Model. Taking the above discussion into consideration, Pixar organization culture is greatly based on trust, team work and free flow of communication between individuals.

To begin, we all know that getting cross-functional project teams to work well together is difficult because the members bring their functional cultures into the project and, as a consequence have difficulty communicating with each other, reaching consensus, and implementing decisions effectively. However, this issue is not at all a slightest concern or problem for Pixar.

According to … organizational structure plays a pivotal role in determining organizational culture and values, communication lines and the corporate culture and work environment existing within the company. On account of … Pixar has an open-plan office landscape with few closed doors throughout the entire office. Indeed, by looking at Pixar’s building and all the activities that occur within the first layer of Schein’s Model, it’s apparent that Pixar is truly and fully recognizes the growing importance of peer group interaction within a knowledge-based economy. Precisely, Pixar work setting facilitates collaboration and knowledge building between peers with low corporate presence and a high degree of professional mobility.

These elements encourage people to milling about in conversation and discussion and enable co-workers a climate of sharing ideas, well functioning feedback and open communication. On the account, not only can employees develop their primary skills but at the same time allows employees to see another person’s point of view, cooperating, helping, sharing, and solving problems (Morse , 2002).

Moreover, subscribe in their creation of community to the belief that a problem shared is a problem solved, Pixar has in attempting to create a culture supportive of creativity and innovation persistently and continuously ensure that their company is run and based on the open systems approach. The operating principles of Pixar is based on freedom to communicate with anyone, a work environment that is safe for everyone to offer ideas, and staying close to innovations happening in the academic community (Catmull, 2008).

In addition, with reference to … it appears that creativity and innovation will flourish only under the right circumstances in an organization. … suggested trust is the very essence of learning and working in a collaborative fashion. Subsequently, one of the other deep routed values Pixar members share is that every members of the organization is responsible, self-motivated and capable of organizing themselves and most importantly every member see one another as a family who will take care of each other.

In other word, Pixar employees have embarked on a journey together, nurturing one another in an environment of mutual respect and trust. Essentially, at Pixar no organizational chart is consulted when it comes to solving problems and everyone resides within an environment that is totally open.

Further, the high level of interaction and flow of communication within Pixar is promoted by its flat organizational structure (…). The organization is founded on remarkable management practices that discourage hierarchical system of reporting. The non hierarchical organizational structure promotes responsibilities and motivates the employees to put in their best at work resulting in high performing organizations. Thus, there is no such thing as hierarchical bureaucracies in Pixar and inflexible and hierarchical environments are simply out of date.

To illustrate, Ed Catmull, Pixar’s president demonstrates his trust in employees by refusing to institute employment contracts as he believes that such a display of corporate control and power is the antithesis of a culture where open channels of communication are imperative. Hence, in Pixar it is not an employment contract that keep the employees together but instead it’s the high level of trust they have in one another.

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Taylor and LaBarre (2006) claimed that a great part of the work at Pixar is about failing and recovering together. Pixar encourages and values every suggestion and idea and continuingly try to increase cross-discipline knowledge among peers and groups in the organization. The result is that old hands and new hires alike develop healthy respect for each other – the foundation of credibility and trust. As a result, it can be said that in Pixar everything is for the better good of the whole organization and the interconnectedness of Pixar’s value becomes visible.

Briefly, Pixar espouse a shared value that individuals can be accountable and the best results come from a system of team-working, ideas sharing, collaboration and open communication. The ability of the organization to create and sustain innovation at work is dependent on trust, transparency and accountability (Hamilton, 2005). By emphasising these crucial factors, Pixar creates a motivated and inspired atmosphere at its workplace and thereby drives its organization to the highest possible potential.

Third Layer – Assumptions

At the third and deepest level, the organization’s tacit assumptions are found. These are the elements of culture that are unseen and not cognitively identified in everyday interactions between organizational members.

Pixar operates under the main assumption that company’s highest efficiency can only be achieved through continuous learning. In the case of Pixar, having built a reputation for creatively combining artistic originality and humour with ground breaking technical expertise, the challenge for Pixar is therefore on maintaining a culture and environment in which some of the world’s best writers, artists, animators and computer engineers can be motivated or and cross-pollinate ideas.

In the organizational context, knowledge is a tool that helps the organization to achieve strategic goals and objectives and consequently, knowledge and learning culture forms the key to business success in today’s competitive industry. Pixar has managed to leverage existing technology tools to create competitive advantage through enhancing its competencies and skills to adapt to new systems and innovate work processes for launching and creating new ideas.

According to the director of The Incredibles Brad Bird, the only thing Pixar dread is becoming complacent (Rao, Sutton and Webb, 2008). Precisely, Pixar is as close to a constant learning organization as there is, with a proven ability to reinvent and a genuine cultural humility. Pixar’s founder and president Ed Catmull’s prolonged and determined efforts to counter the natural human reactions to success by aspiring to proactively seek-out and constantly solve new problems, recognizing that he doesn’t have all the answers on his own.

The aim that Pixar wants to achieve is to craft a learning environment and reinforce the mind-set that everyone in the company is all learning together. The company adopts a non-hierarchical organization structure that encourages associates to actively participate in the decision making process at all stages. The organization supports employee empowerment in the form of supportive management practices that focuses on employee skills development and promoting participative leadership style. Hence Catmull actively and proactively solicits feedback from Pixar employees, who say that the mentality of constant improvement flows throughout the company.

… mentioned that especially in this day and age of increasing chaos and uncertainty in the global economy, such flexibility, and proactivity learning culture can be major instruments for ensuring organization sustainable goals and objectives. Therefore, to further reassure the fact that they are genuinely a learning organization, Pixar continuously encourage every of their employees to pursue educational endeavours through Pixar University and constantly support their employees to join professional association in which they have an opportunity to display their work, gain peer and industry recognition for their accomplishments.

According to Randy S. Nelson, dean of Pixar University, Pixar main goal is to establish a sustainable learning culture (Taylor and LaBarre, 2006). Indeed, the fact that Pixar encourages employees to share their ideas and art-in process, and accept feedback from others without worrying about being labelled a failure (…) demonstrates high commitment to deliver only a master piece of work and demonstrates tacit assumption of constant improvement and learning.

Notwithstanding, conventional management practice usually establishes a top-down, bureaucratically controlled, and narrow focused approach. Pixar however, while still require a sense of direction, also creates a “space in which many possible actions and behaviors can emerge, including those that can question the limits being imposed”. An important part of doing this is the fact that it encourages effective learning culture by the development of structures and processes that institutionalize a culture of learning, thus moving towards the creation of a continuous learning organization.

To be more detail, Pixar’s deep rooted assumption in constant learning is also reflected in their practice of delivering honest feedback. At Pixar, giving feedback, offering comments and express ideas are not limited to the directors and producers like most movie studios where the review of works-in-process is only reserved for a small group of senior staff. To be even more accurate, at Pixar, employees are encouraged to think out-side the box and the entire team shares its unfinished work each day with any Pixarian who wants to attend and everyone in the company has the freedom to communicate with anyone in the organization regardless of level or title.

Pixar presents a fine blending of learning and team work assisted by an open organizational design that enables the company to roll out new ideas and creative products for their target audience. This practice clearly speaks out how constant learning and improvement is deeply rooted into the Pixar’s tacit assumption. With such type of ingrained belief, continuous interaction with internal and external environmental changes can effectively take place, internal conflicts can be better managed, and necessary adaptations to changing environments can be made.

The assumptions mentioned above although not necessary explicitly stated in everyday working situation they show through the employees and company practice. For instance, employees at Pixar routinely conduct meetings and seek consensus and when it comes to developing new stories and technologies, Pixar humbly admits that it is constantly figuring it out. It does not have all the answers.

However, with a workforce of truly interested people who work together and constantly explore new ways to fulfil their dreams, it is undoubtedly apparent why Pixar continues to succeed.

Some drawbacks in Schein Model

Anyhow, although Schein organizational culture model is a well known model and being used widely for a good number of years in analyzing organization culture. However, it also has some uncertain aspects as about to be discussed. Having thoroughly looked at it I found that there are still insufficient clarity as to what are the actual differences between the professed culture and the tacit assumptions. Even more, although further explanation has been given but to a certain degree it would still be hard to actually distinguish between the two as it is hard to define when some kind of professed culture becomes a tacit assumption. For example, principle of teamwork could be professed or tacit. Moreover, I believe the saying that the tacit assumptions cannot be examined by interviews and questionnaires somehow gives too much credit to the investigator to decide what he sees.


It is apparent that the values, norms and beliefs that play a role in creativity and innovation in organizations can either support or inhibit creativity and innovation, depending on how they influence the behavior of individuals and groups. However, Pixar fortunately being a learning organization and employs organization A approach embodies many of the values and benefits of the flatter organization and empowerment a more effective stance or structure on which to have competitive survival. Finally, after taking everything into consideration, it’s definitely not an over-statement nor exaggerates to say that Pixar is truly a learning organization that is totally full and packed with lifelong learners.

Organization Culture and Workplace Environment

The previous section highlighted the significance of organizational aesthetics and workplace design in shaping the Pixar work culture. However, the analysis of the success mantra of Pixar cannot be complete without an insight into its organizational culture that is reflected in its workplace environment. Organization culture defines the organizational belief, values and norms shared by the employees. An organization is shaped by the culture that predominates in work environment, employee behaviour and managerial attitude. Pixar adopts an organization culture that defies all traditional theories related to managing and running a business establishment.

Conventional management practices focused on bureaucratic controls and centralised decision making system that demarcated distinctive roles for each individuals. The evolving concepts of organizational culture and practices focus more on employee welfare and development plans that inspire the workforce to display proactive behaviour at work. One of the distinctive challenges faced by all organizations today is motivating its employees to achieve higher levels of performance and build a work climate that induces positive attitude to work amongst its employees. Motivation is a key area where the organizational management needs to stand out in order to achieve a high degree of employee creativity skills in solving business problems. Opportunity oriented, reward oriented, freedom to explore and work on their own are some of the factors which contribute to a high degree of motivation which gives solidarity to the company and promotes a good organizational culture. A high degree of employee motivation ensures that employees work freely and without reservations in achieving their desired goals. They are also given the freedom to work on their own to allow creative ideas and hence innovative practices to grow. This would not be possible in a restricting environment where the employees do not have the room to develop and grow their intrinsic creativity skills.

Pixar adopted the innovative and creative approach to expand its market potentials and gain new grounds in an emerging industry. The promoters of the Company ensured that the team based work approach promoted creative talents of its employees and nurtured the potentials of the workforce through an enabling corporate learning environment. “This is a new kind of movie studio that not only invents its own technology, much like a whiz-bang Silicon Valley Company, but also comes up with new production methods and organizational innovations that bring unheard of discipline to the crazy business of making movies” (Schlender, 2004).

Understand Organization Culture through Workplace Environment

Different models of organizational culture have been proposed by researchers and academicians. Such models provide the basis for understanding the context in which organizations operate within the existing business environment. One of the models proposed by Roger Harrison (1972) suggested that organizational culture is primarily of four types that include power, role, task/achievement and person/support (Cartwright & Cooper, 2000). This model was further researched by Handy to provide four distinctive categories of organization culture. The four categories have been identified as role culture, power culture, person culture, and task culture.

First of all, and in order to understand Pixar’s organizational culture, the type of organization’s culture must be clarified.

The power culture is influenced by the control of individuals at the head who run the whole show for the business. The role culture reflects bureaucratic organization that takes into account the procedures and position of employees to define the existing work culture. The person culture is shaped by the leader-subordinate relationship that accounts for the existing work culture. The task culture is based on impact of individual knowledge and expertise that influences the work culture and environment (Itzen & Nerwman, 2005).

Linking now the definition of Handy’s 4 types of organizational culture to the specific case of Pixar, all dimensions need to be discussed.

The organizational culture displayed at Pixar focuses on increased collaboration and team work culture. The creativity at Pixar is “fostered daily by an open collaborative atmosphere in which every member of the team is engaged in the process and commited to a common goal – in this case, a good entertaining story” (Kiedaisch, 2010). The company adopts an integrated approach towards its people development strategies based on group learning initiatives and team work focus. One of the mechanisms adopted by organizations today is the reinforcement of team work that provides the individuals with the autonomy and freedom to act according to the need of the hour. Teams at Pixar are an integral part of operational processes and the organization relies extensively on teams to perform strategic functions. The team learning process is not only innovative and inspiring to the members but it also helps the organization devise new strategies and creative ideas that can work wonders for the business.

Hence it can be concluded that Pixar displays task culture where individual expertise and skills are integrated with organizational capabilities and resources to produce new ideas and product designs. The task culture brings individuals working on specific tasks together to contribute to the completion of a bigger task. The work approach focuses on completing the job at hand successfully and more emphasis is given to a collaborative approach that necessitates the coming together of differently skilled people to accomplish the goal. Hence this kind of work culture promotes an informal work environment where decision making is usually reached through discussions and consensus between the employees. This type of work culture is also characterized by increased interaction and exchange of information between members.

Suggested applicable solutions

“In order for an organization to remain relevant and to compete in pursuit of its mission, management of organizations must pay attention to both ends of the process, generating creative ideas frequently and utilizing its innovation process to realize the potential value of those ideas” (McLean, 2005). Organizations operating in a competitive business environment depend on innovation and creativity through the adoption of latest technology tools and applications to drive market advantage in their favour. Management of technology and its judicious application in work processes facilitate the firms to deliver high quality products and superior work performance that is driven by an enabling work culture. Adopting work practices that promote creativity and innovation within firms can be a challenging task since the application of such business models are impacted by the human resource strategies, managerial capabilities and resource availability (Gilmartin, 1999). Studies of such business models in creative organizations have proved the effectiveness of these strategies that promote innovation and a positive work culture within the workforce.

An analysis of the competitive industry environment provides a clear picture on the existing market environment and its current trends. The driving economic forces that guide the market movements and emergent technology trends are significant to the analysis of markets and help organizations like Pixar to define appropriate strategies to retain competitive advantage. Futuristic technologies are envisioned to create better and increased utility of existing products and services for improved applications and heightened consumer satisfaction. However, the effective utilisation of such technology trends depends on the creativity of its manpower. Creativity contributes to the generation of new ideas and help companies in distinguishing their products and services from their competitors in the market. Pursuing a creative organization approach must focus on developing the human resource of the organization.


The analysis of Pixar work culture and organizational aesthetics have highlighted some significant points in context of strengthening the innovative capabilities of a company. While office workspace design and structure play a significant role in influencing a positive work environment the role of organizational culture and strategic practices involving team work, participative leadership approach and emplo


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