The culture change that comes with agile

The culture change that comes with agile

The world is experiencing a shift away from more traditional waterfall methodologies and towards more agile practices. Agile has a lot going for it – working software released rapidly and an end to projects going over budget by hundreds of percent, for example – but it has its own challenges.

Culture change is one of them.

The nature of the waterfall approach is that it’s quite transactional. The user dictates their requirements, and the supplier humbly submits what they’ll deliver to the user for approval. Eric Berne’s Parent and Child egos would be accessed all too naturally by most waterfall role holders.

Agile, on the other hand, is collaborative by design. The dream is of self-managed teams, who are united behind common goals and all contribute based on the skills and knowledge they can uniquely bring. It feels like much more of an Adult-Adult relationship.

But the world we tend to inhabit is a hierarchical one. The utopia of the Agile Manifesto meets the business world, and two new roles are created:

  • The product owner, a concept that really ought not to have a place when the team as a whole should own the product
  • The scrum master, a facilitator who is no-one’s master when everyone has an equal say, and typically holds a bit of an admin role that could be shared among a truly self-managed team

And, at a very pragmatic level, those two roles tend to add a lot of value! As ever, the world proves itself more complex and ambiguous than a beautifully simple idea can capture.

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Here’s my point though: Agile has a lot to offer, and is being introduced to a huge number of businesses that one would think of as traditional. Those traditional businesses, however, have a culture that is generally going to think about things in a traditional way. As a result, a true introduction of agile is going to require a culture change as much as – perhaps more than – a process change.

And culture change, being organic, ironically tends to happen most naturally in an agile way.

Who knew that the solution to implementing agile successfully might be to do it using agile?

What’s your experience or perception of agile?


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