In the 2015 VersionOne state of Agile survey, the top reason for failed Agile projects (46% of respondents) was company culture being at odds with core Agile values.
I’ve experienced this myself. Companies understand they need to get better at delivering software, so they decide to assemble Agile teams and bring in training.
The Agile teams use all the Agile practices, yet leadership sees little improvement. Why is there little improvement? Usually it’s because the company has a philosophy and culture that are at odds with core Agile values.
Below are the core values outlined in the Agile manifesto:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
Organizations have to have the ability to adapt to change. The advance of technology and globalization have made this an absolute need to stay competitive.
Adopting Agile is not just about improving how a small project team delivers software. It’s bigger than that. Leadership has to get on board with Agile values and principles. Organizations of the future will be dynamic, fluid, and need leadership at all levels. The days of a static hierarchy org structure will soon be long gone.
The question remains, what should leadership do to align the company culture with Agile core values? My advice is to not try and change the culture head on. Many have tried and failed. Instead, allow the Agile team(s) to adapt their own rules and culture. Think of them as an organization within an organization. Allow them exceptions to old buerecratic processes. Help them remove any impediments that’s slowing them down. Let them develop their own mini culture.
Once you do this and start seeing success, you can then begin to expand out the new culture. The idea is to start changing the company culture in small chunks, one area at a time.
For large organizations, changing company culture is a monumental challenge. You need leadership at the top to champion the change. You’ll need buy in and a sense of urgency.
Once Agile core values align with company culture, product delivery will go faster and changing priorities will be managed better.
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