October 16, 2019
Systematic is allying with research and top-level sports to maintain an elite position within software development
In an exceptional cooperation with Aarhus University and the professional handball club Bjerringbro-Silkeborg (BSH), Systematic has initiated an anthropological research project that will examine how organisations maintain and develop team culture that promotes performance at a high level.
Since its establishment in Aarhus in 1985, the software company Systematic has experienced huge growth, in both the number of employees and turnover. Major orders for software solutions, primarily for the defence and health sectors at home and abroad, have meant that the company has grown from approx. 400 employees to 1100 in 10 years. At the same time, the company has opened offices in 12 countries all over the world. This is of course all positive; however, it also challenges the culture within the organisation when many new employees join within a relatively short time.
“Developing critical software solutions for key sectors in society places huge demands on the performance level of employees and their collaborating teams. When the company experiences major growth in both assignments and number of employees, it must work on company culture to safeguard high quality and effective processes, and to ensure that employees are motivated to perform at their very best, every day. That’s why we believe that the PhD project is a sound investment, which hopefully will contribute with specific and evidence-based knowledge in this area, that we and other organisations can benefit from,” explains Michael Holm, CEO of Systematic.
Field studies among handball players and software developers
The research project is carried out by Kasper Pape Helligsøe, an anthropologist from the Institute for Culture and Society at Aarhus University. Over the next three years, he will conduct field studies at Systematic and at the handball club Bjerringbro-Silkeborg (BSH), to investigate, among other things, how the two organisations work on creating the best possible frameworks for their respective teams, to enable them to perform at a consistently high level.
Kasper Helligsøe has already carried out his preliminary studies at BSH, where he was impressed by the tremendous clarity and focus on detail that characterises the team culture at the handball club. In the coming months, he will examine social and cultural aspects within the selected staff teams at Systematic and thereby obtain a deeper understanding of establishing and managing leadership of professional performance environments.
“The idea of comparing a major international software company with a professional handball club is to provoke insight and perspectives that would not arise if we were to examine just one of the two organisations. We can say that the handball club in this way functions as a kind of mirror that can be held up in the company and place focus on topics and working methods that promote good performance,” says Kasper Pape Helligsøe.
Much talk – but little research in this area
BSH’s coach Peter Bredsdorff-Larsen is both proud and excited to be part of the project.
“In the pursuit of optimal results, we work every day to develop and improve the prerequisites for players and the team to deliver top performances. With this background, it is particularly interesting for us to be a part of a PhD project that will shed light on the work carried out in the world of both business and sports. We can certainly learn from each other and we expect that the project will produce knowledge and inspiration to all who wish to develop an enduring winner culture,” says Peter Bredsdorff-Larsen.
The idea that businesses can learn from athletes and sport’s access to leadership, objectives and motivational work is not new; however, according to Kasper Helligsøe, surprisingly little Danish research has been done in this area.
“I have not been able to uncover very much research on the social and cultural aspects prevalent in performance environments such as the ones they strive to achieve every day in both Systematic and BSH. Many athletes, business leaders and coaches have written and spoken about how they have created results in teams; however, we do not have any specific research and empirical data in this area. We are now changing this – and hopefully other organisations that, similarly to Systematic and BSH, focus on a high level of performance, can use our insight and results in their own development,” he concludes.
In the next 2.5 years, he will conduct field studies and write his thesis before the project is submitted in 2022.