Aug 21, 2020
In this episode, Dan Neumann is joined by AgileThought colleague and frequent guest of the show, Quincy Jordan. Quincy has been with AgileThought for just over two years as a principal transformation consultant and agile competency lead. Prior to AgileThought, Quincy was the transformation lead for Pivotal’s Atlanta office, where he consulted with clients to help them reach enterprise scale. He has also served as a principal consultant and agile coach at SCRUMstudy.com for over six years.
In their discussion today, Dan and Quincy explore the topic of culture as related to agile transformations. They define what culture is, why it is important, how it factors into agile transformations, and how to begin addressing it as an organization. Quincy also shares how to become more intentional about addressing culture early on as the company is moving toward a more agile way of working, the outcomes of being unintentional about addressing culture challenges, and additional tips and takeaways that are critical to keeping in mind when addressing culture.
What does ‘culture’ refer to?
A combination of the values, habits, and norms within a group or organization
The values that are present in everything that your organization does
It applies to any organization (whether it’s a religious institution, your family unit, company, etc.)
Can be characterized as “The way things happen around here” or “How we do things around here”
Quincy’s advice regarding how culture factors into agile transformations:
Culture cannot come last; if you want the ‘machine to run well’ and address the culture after, you have created a culture that says, “The machine is more important than the culture”
If a specific habit, such as courage, is not encouraged, you are building cultural debt; i.e., it will become more and more difficult for courage to be expressed
It is important to be intentional about culture upfront and incorporate it into your transformation as part of your strategy
If you don’t want certain habits to be a part of the culture, you have to intentionally set a new structure for everyone to transition to (otherwise it will continue to be pervasive)
Outcomes of being unintentional about addressing culture challenges:
If you’re not intentional about the culture and you develop a culture by default, it is likely to be riddled with cultural debt
If you don’t address having the proper culture that you want up front, you are going to have a mismatch of what you currently have and what it is that you really want
If the team/s are checklist-driven then they won’t have the opportunity to help the culture be values-driven
How to be more intentional about addressing culture early on as the company is moving toward a more agile way of working:
Ask: “Are we involving the teams in the actual planning or are they being given plans and milestones that they’re expected to hit without participating in the creation of those plans?”
Ask: “Is our culture checklist-driven rather than values-driven?”
The team/s should be involved in understanding what’s drawing value so they can better help accomplish the work that needs to be done for the values to be there
Set the culture upfront
Figure out the things that you are and are not aligned to as an organization
Decide on where the values lie and what they would be (ask individuals and teams: “What are the things that we value?”)
Have teams and individuals fill in the blank: “It really agitates me when _________.” It helps make clear what things affect their value system
Do a team working agreement where you establish what the values are
Once you establish what the values are, ask: “How can we act on these values?” and “What are the things that we can do, day-in and day-out, to express that those are our values?”
For example, if the value is: “Everyone has a voice,” then you need to provide opportunities for individuals to have their voice heard
Additional culture tips and takeaways:
You need to be intentional and know what your values are so that you can drive towards them (and be intentional about not allowing those values to be encroached upon)
If you address culture upfront, then you’re putting the organization in a position where you’re helping to impact the decision-making
Addressing the culture upfront helps the organization work towards their overall vision
It is important to have people within the organization that are carrying the culture forward so that when others are unsure/confused, they can look to those people
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