You implemented Scrum, told project managers that they are now scrum masters, had the all-hands meeting where announced that you are agile now, wrote that you are Agile on your website, your sales managers say agile not less than 1 time in a minute when they talk to the customer, but… still something doesn’t work? You feel yourself like painting the wall white colour but still can see the black underneath? Do you recognize your company? I do) I feel like everyone are just “playing” agile, they do not “live” it.
Today I had some time to think about the reason, why agile fails in our company and started with browsing the “why agile fails” in google. You know, it is always the best way to solve your issues) I was totally shocked when I came across Annual State of Agile surveys and found out what the top item in “Barriers of further adoption” section is “Inability to change the organizational culture”! Yep, as always – there are thousands of people in the world having the same problems. 53% of the last survey responders name culture the main issue. Close number in the 2010-2012 reports.
Culture is the top barrier for agile adoption
Company culture is usually ignored as something not really important. People now are more aware about the connection of the culture and company values to the performance, but they still prefer not to deal with it, as it is really hard. Especially if you already have a toxic one – managing it would be really difficult.
“The only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture. If you do not manage culture, it manages you, and you may not even be aware of the extent to which this is happening…. Organizational cultures are created by leaders, and one of the most decisive functions of leadership may well be the creation, the management, and – if and when that may become necessary – the destruction of culture.”
Edgar Schein, professor at MIT Sloan School of Management
When it comes to agile we start with changing our software development department, as we think agile is like a tool, or process which we implement, follow all the rules and it brings us to success. We start facing problems first when find out that some rules are not so simple, that you can just command everyone follow them. If you start just “do agile” you won’t get such great results which were promised by the seller’s brochure. And the seller (the one, who sold the idea of change tot eh management) usually describes the benefits of agile as it is the silver bullet – solves any issues, recovers any zombie projects. “You are killing you projects for so many years? Your people are alive zombies with 0 motivation? Don’t worry, get several agile coaches and they’ll fix it all!”
I came across the great post by Michael Sahota which made my puzzle complete – Agile is not a tool or process, it is a culture itself. In his article Michael describes the Schneider Model for the companies culture and uses it to intersect with Agile culture.
Agile culture and company culture
The diagram below (my interpretation of the author’s diagram) shows Schneider Model. There are four cultures – one in each quadrant with words describing it. It is not difficult to get where is your company.
Agile culture is based on the principles defined in Agile manifesto. So for Agile the following diagram would be relevant:
Almost all the agile principles fit into Collaboration and Cultivation. But we shouldn’t forget about the technical excellence too.
Easy to see that there is less common in agile culture and Control culture. If your company has more Control culture type you better beware, as agile will probably be in conflict with it.
To me it explains why company culture can be top barrier for agile adoption. Changing culture is very difficult task and definitely time consuming.
It is great, but the first thing I have to do is to understand our company culture. You can’t make any changes if you don’t know what is your starting point) So I will take it as my homework and try to collaborate with some colleagues on that.
I also found the useful list of articles on the topic, as I want to continue exploring this area.