Pixar- Culture and Organisations

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Culture and Organisations Pixar case study
HRO372
1. Background
Pixar Animation Studios was founded in 1979, initially specializing in producing state of the art computer hardware (Carlson, 2003). In 1990, due to poor product sales the company diversified from its core business and began producing computer animated commercials for outside companies. Success came for Pixar after the production of its first computer animated film ‘Toy story’ in 1995 (Hutton and Baute, 2007). Since then, Pixar has made many innovative animated feature films, with well known ones including - A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille and WALL-E, six of which are in the top grossing animated films of all time (Pixar, 2010). The company has won many Academy awards for Best Animated Feature film, and puts its success largely down to the “rare talent” of its employees (Prokesch, 2008). Pixar’s operates a strong organisational culture, which has seen it become a benchmark for other companies in the film making industry. The company’s key objective is “to combine proprietary technology and world-class creative talent to develop computer-animated feature films with memorable characters and heart-warming stories that appeal to audiences of all ages (Pixar, 2009).” In 2006, Pixar entered a 7.6 billion dollar agreement to work with the Walt Disney Company. The Pixar Company is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Disney (La Franco, 2006). Although the merger has been a success long term, it has not been without its problems. Pixar’s unique ‘hands off’ management culture has often conflicted with Disney’s traditional bureaucratic leadership style. The animation industry is a highly competitive environment, with Pixar’s biggest competition being, DreamWorks Animation and Blue Sky Studios. In 2008, the global animation market was estimated to be worth 300 billion US dollars per year (Skillset, 2009). In order to remain competitive, Pixar need to retain a highly skilled workforce and not lose their strong organisational culture, which is the foundation of their creative power and innovation.

2. Frameworks for analysis
2.1 Schein’s framework
Many theorists have given their definition of organizational culture. Schein (1997, p.6), defines it as the “basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organization, that operate unconsciously and define in a basic taken-for-granted fashion an organization’s view of itself and its environment.” Schein highlights the importance of understanding culture within an organization stating that “organizational learning, development and planned change cannot be understood without considering culture as the primary source of resistance to change.” Schein’s framework (see appendix a) argues that an organizations culture is made up of three levels, consisting of artifacts, espoused beliefs and values and underlying assumptions. This framework will be used to analyze the human resource management within Pixar to see how it impacts on the company’s organizational culture. In his book “The corporate culture survival guide,” Schein reveals that there is clear link between corporate culture and Human Resource Management. He states that corporate culture isn’t always what it seems. There are ‘hidden depths’ that managers fail to acknowledge in times of organization failure. Managers need to grasp the true meaning of the company in which Schein states can be “learned, shared, tacit assumptions on which people base their daily behaviour." Pixar’s HRM is one that is designed to increase employee satisfaction. Catmull (2008), states that the belief at Pixar is that “people are greater than ideas.” The company’s organizational structure, strategy, communication levels, team work environment, values and norms are central to its unique “hands off” management culture, which has seen it become a benchmark in the film making industry. 2.2 Artifacts...
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