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Agile Coaches' Corner shares practical concepts in an approachable way. It is for agile practitioners and business leaders seeking expert advice on improving the way they work to achieve their desired outcomes. If you have a topic you'd like discussed, email it to, or tweet it with #agilethoughtpodcast.

Jan 3, 2020

Welcome to the first episode of 2020! In this first episode back into the new year, Dan Neumann will be taking a look at organizational culture.


It’s often said in the Agile community that the culture has to change within an organization for Agile to take place. When it is thought of like that, changing culture can be a pretty tall order. But in William Schneider’s book, The Reengineering Alternative: A Plan for Making Your Current Culture Work, he outlines a framework to make your current organization’s culture work. In this episode, Dan will be taking a look at the key concepts of Schneider’s framework and exploring the four cultures he categorizes every organization into also known as the four Cs.


There’s no one-size-fits-all for the perfect culture to support Agility in an organization. Your results will be much more effective if you work with your organization’s current culture — so be sure to tune in to learn how to fully leverage your current organization’s culture!


Key Takeaways

The four Cs of organizational culture:


Similar to a family in their social nature

Derives their strength through affiliation

Strengths: very team-focused, participative, values diversity, and are a generally fairly trusting organization with lots of open and honest communication

Weaknesses or downsides (when the pendulum swings too far into a collaboration-based culture): the harmony of the group may be valued over the frankness that’s needed to talk about tough issues, and there may be too much compromising and too much movement towards consensus building and collaboration versus being clear about how decisions get made and collaborating within the defined framework (i.e. trouble making and sticking to decisions)

Important to consider: collaboration culture can be great, but just make sure the pendulum hasn’t swung too far to the point where the organization is ignoring misbehaviors or shortcomings; instead, tackle them head-on within the culture


Similarly modeled to the social institution of the military


Leaders are awarded for power reasons

Strengths: emphasizes strength; very effective at planning; and there are clear systems, policies, and procedures in place

Weaknesses or downsides (when the pendulum swings too far into a control-based culture): people will begin to rigidly adhere to the policies and practices without ever stopping to improve them, innovation may stop within the organization, and it becomes difficult to have generalists (which can be very important on Agile teams)

Important to consider: control culture is not anti-Agile, but if you are looking to embrace the values and principles of Agile, you have to keep the culture in perspective


Similar to the social institution of a sports team or university

Rewards staff that are achievement-focused

Can be very creative and visionary and values craftsmanship

Strengths: organizations are task-driven, tend to be very efficient and objective, and have high-performance standards

Weaknesses or downsides (when the pendulum swings too far into a competency-based culture): individuals may go on ‘technical tangents’ and are spending too much time in ‘analysis paralysis’ (i.e. trying to find the ‘perfect’ solution instead of moving forward with building), overplanning, and may become too emotionally controlled with no willingness to deal with interpersonal conflict

Important to consider: make sure that the organization’s culture is not striving to win at all costs but instead focusing on completing tasks and achieving objectives


Similarly to a religious institution in their social nature

Values growth and self-actualizing

Generally non-profit organizations

Strengths: these organizations tend to be personal, nurturing, inspiring, fairly subjective, help people self-actualize to be their best, and provide lots of opportunities for growth and development (which can be very helpful for an Agile team)

Weaknesses or downsides (when the pendulum swings too far into a cultivation-based culture): way too much self-expression, too much time focused on feelings and worrying about the slightest offense that may have been taken, favorites may be played in the organization, and emotions may begin to trump the place of data

Important to consider: make sure the pendulum doesn’t swing too far into cultivation as the notions of measuring and managing would have a hard time really taking root


Mentioned in this Episode:

Agile Coaches’ Corner Ep. 58: “How to Get Past the Two-Week Shelf Life of Your New Year’s Resolution”

The Agile Manifesto

The Reengineering Alternative: A Plan for Making Your Current Culture Work,
by William Schneider

Susan DiFabio’s LinkedIn

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, by General Stanley McChrystal, Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell

How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business, by Douglas W. Hubbard


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