Friday, April 10, 2015

How to make the culture transition from Traditional to Agile?

An agile culture is not the result of scalable processes, but of adaptive mind and scalable behavior.

Agile is expanding its horizon to become a digital principle and philosophy to run today’s businesses. From a culture perspective, how do you make culture transition from traditional to Agile? How do you measure culture in this context? What are the factors that directly or indirectly affect the culture of the organization? To put another way, what are some questions that one may ask the team to measure these factors?

Leadership mindset and behavior: The spirit of the organization comes from the top. Altering how executives think and act is challenging. The most effective approach to organizational culture change is for the leading executives to have a personal philosophy shift. This changes the most important thing - leadership mindset and behavior. It also flows into what they pay attention to and how they prioritize, lead their teams and deploy management processes. An agile culture is not the result of scalable processes, but of adaptive mind and scalable behavior. A few ways to approach culture shift include finding a volunteer at the top of the organization and getting them interested in a central organizing metaphor and language like, the responsibility process, grooming an agile expert for the top role (agilists are phenomenally disciplined in focusing on value, prioritizing, executing, and collaborating ), or allowing the organization to succumb to market forces and then pick up the pieces.

Culture can be managed via retrospects: Once you identify what is and is not working; then you can get into why: The culture could be a possible outcome of why things happen the way they do. In addition, to just being business savvy with all stakeholders. You must know the unwritten rules of the road to navigate to success. You should consider looking at culture through the lens of people's interaction with one another in an organization (within and across team silos) than from an organizational management perspective. Some of the factors that can affect culture are:

Trust: A company with a culture of trust will have a much easier time for agile transition than one that doesn't. So, "how can the Agile team manage culture more effectively?" Search out mistrust, and try to address the destructive practices one at a time. The transition is challenging and it's one of the largest reasons that "Agile" projects fail. There are definitely ways to manage through it, though! The core issue is trust. "Management" must trust the teams to do their work, they must give them the budget they need and trust them to spend it wisely, they must trust them to allocate the work in the best possible way, they must trust the teams to improve their own process, they must trust the teams to change the nature of the product in response to customer feedback. It is an essential part of a truly agile organization.

Respect: The fundamental problem for any negative cultures (inertia, mediocrity, etc) is one of 'value' - how do you value people? If you link this to remuneration, you will have problems. It might be better to start from "respect." Do you respect people enough to treat them same (unbiased) by treating them differently (using different talent accordingly)? Highly effective cultures don't reflect their members, their members reflect them; meaning you select team members who are natural fits. An agile culture supports collaboration, one that is comfortable with uncertainty, a culture more akin to that of a research and development environment, is one that the agile approach will work well in. But it is crucial that the mindset of the team members be comfortable with the characteristics of agile methodology. To adopt an "Agile" (not Fragile) culture, it has to be adopted throughout the organization. While an edict from high might help get things rolling, it is not a solution.

Process: Good change process creates a good culture within the team. Telling employees why the management is putting processes in place; what values the processes are there to support, command only is not going to give the organization processes that 'stick.' As soon as people find a problem, they will revert back to doing things the way they think is the right way. Culture is not something that can be dictated and followed such as a new policy or rule from management. Culture has context and its relative to the group of people that follow it or share a common set of beliefs, such as a specialized set of skills or principles. A team's collective intelligence and specialization is rooted its organizational structure, attempting to spawn a culture change at a policy level is likely to result in the opposite, while aligning with an existing set of corporate principles they already share in common may prove to be most productive. Every time a change is needed, the people whose way of working needs to change go through a series of steps: (1) Recognize and understand the problem that is being addressed. (2) Understand the root causes of the observed problem and how they contribute to the observed problem. (3) Understand which of these root causes is being addressed. (4) Understand the proposed solution and how it is expected to address the root cause we chose to address. Outside the team, one has less control, but it is still useful to try and bring people to a better understanding of the causes and effects, particularly where there are mistaken beliefs that result in bad effects.

Agility is a means to an end. To what end in your case? Work out what you want agility for. A measure that Agile is a journey, not a destination; it’s more as a "direction" than an "end." Transforming to Agile culture means the business knows the direction they want to go on, and as the people discover new ways of working, collaborating, delivering value, they inspect and adapt in that journey. This in the end may have the effect of promoting culture change organically while reducing the stress that people have from fear of the perceived risk of losing one's job for sharing ideas. In order to manage a smooth agile culture shift, consider such factors as Mindset, Communication, Technical Maturity, Process, Collaboration Tools, etc. Definitely measure and test the direction continuously to make sure the business is on the right course.


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