Don’t underestimate the culture shift

I have worked with many teams using SCRUM despite the rest of the organization not operating in or particularly supportive of the methodology.  The teams applied the Agile principles as much as possible within the constraints that existed and they were successful.  They may not have had text-book stories, but they were self-organizing and delivering value regularly with far better quality than other delivery teams.  So, when the entire organization decided to “go Agile”, I had an unrealistic set of expectations.  I knew it would be difficult. It took a long time for the org to get to where they were and it wasn’t agile friendly, but the success I had seen before led me to believe other teams would experience what my teams had.

Bless my heart.

Teams can overcome a lot – much more than anyone would give them credit for.  They can’t overcome culture.  If the culture is to value an individuals contributions, over and above their role, the team members would be silly to eschew that which they are measured by.  Let’s not forget the fact that the managers aren’t quite sure what to do if not overseeing their direct reports work.  And, what about those who don’t directly manage but are hired to “strategize” and lead?

If I have an opportunity to be a part of a large transformation again I would do the following:

  • Change the objectives of team members to align to, support and reward the team over the individual.
  • Change the objectives of managers to deliver value to teams by making it easier for them to apply Agile and be EMPOWERED.
  • Change the objectives of the organization to strive towards Agile proper not Company X Agile.
  • Train middle management using the exact same training the team members will go through before training team members.
  • Recognize that Agile is not for everyone.  Some people who have been great before will not be a good fit and that’s OK.
  • Empower the team in everything they are doing and celebrate their learning as they succeed, fail and improve.

I’m curious to hear about great and not so great transformations as it relates to culture shifts.  What has worked?  What am I missing?


2 thoughts on “Don’t underestimate the culture shift

  1. Gebuh,

    Thanks for the question. It’s a good one. I have had some team members who had me worried at the outset and they have ended up being amazing contributors and change agents. Since it’s mainly a mind-shift, as long as someone has an open mind and is willing to TRY there’s no limit to the potential. That said, Agile is about transparency. If someone generally doesn’t pull their weight on the team, the team will know and there will (likely) be consequences. It’s for the team to decide. No predictors though. It’s a level playing field starting out and it’s up to the individual and the team.

    If someone is trying to predict, I would be wary of them.

    I look forward to future comments from you!


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