Culture in an Agile World

When we talk of Agile, we mean Agility… not “Agile Development” but “Business Agility” (“Enterprise Agility” or “Agile Enterprise”)!

The “Agile Development” community among other communities (executive coaching, etc.) is challenged by culture (even some-would-say plagued by its own very culture). When exploring dysfunctions and culture, the Agile community itself — with wedges between the Scrum Alliance and as well between Scrum/XP and Kanban — is always a good case study, particularly referencing Tobias Mayer’s The Scrum Compliance blog post!

Why Culture? Because Culture is about Value not merely “values”!

Why is Culture so Challenging? Because “we are all prisoners of our paradigms, and hostages to our beliefs.” (Gary Hamel) Culture, Leadership, and Strategy are intertwined!

At the root of many challenges around culture is an oversimplification of culture to the dangerously narrow! Culture is not

Culture is not merely about espoused core values and noble cause, and culture is not merely about espoused manifestos, but about “being the change we want to see in the world”, about living our core values and noble cause and about living our manifestos — with those who share who don’t share them!

“Culture is a pattern of shared tacit assumptions that was learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.” (Edgar Schein) We must appreciate the breadth and depth of culture, including external survival issues, internal integration issues, and deeper underlying assumptions!

Culture is an emergent property of humans being social. We can’t merely create but only stimulate culture. We can’t merely use a survey to assess a culture or start with the idea of changing a culture, but we must start with the business issues we confront and then consider culture.

Culture change is transformation; and Zappos is an interesting case-study!

Culture in an Agile World is available on SlideShare.


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