Sunday, August 26, 2012

Does becoming Agile require Culture Change?

Recently, I have been seriously considering the question of Culture Change in relation to Agile. 

Please consider this example and decide for yourself.  Does this example require culture change.... Yes or No? 

The scenario.

An important part of many Agile frameworks is the concept of the team working on "the most valuable work" for the company or customer.  Another fundamental component is the importance of truthfulness.

You are working with a team that has discovered and acknowledges that the project they are working on will have little or no value to the company when they are finished.  When the project was conceived it made sense.  It no longer does.

The team does what they are trained to do and brings that information to their leaders.  The executives and managers, after carefully reviewing all the facts realize this is true and the project is terminated.

Praise is given and the team is moved on to the next project in the huge list of backlogged projects.

After a few cycles, iterations, sprints, cadences (depending on your preferred agile framework), the team realizes the same is true for their current project.  The project is again cancelled.

As a result of the cancellation of the two projects, several managers will not reach their department objectives for the year and therefore will lose bonus money.

End of Scenario.

Is the team successful?

Is the team successful from an Agile perspective?

If this happened in your organization, what would happen?

What needs to happen to allow the team to do valuable work?

Is a Project Management group being rewarded for finishing projects without consideration for corporate value of the projects?

Are teams rewarded for acting with integrity?

Are managers and executives rewarded for acting with integrity?

Are teams rewarded based on achieving results?

What if those results are no longer appropriate?

Are teams rewarded based on learning and improved capacity to handle future work?

In your own opinion, if the answer to these questions doesn't match your ideal, do you think that you will need to change culture to achieve your perfect answer?

More importantly, do you feel that your corporation wants to adjust what you have discovered? Why? Why not?

I personally think we need to consider this type of situation when deciding if becoming Agile requires culture change or not.  

I put this out there as a question to ask yourself for your own environment and reality.

Happy pondering.

by Mike Caspar

1 comment :

  1. Hey Mike! I love your scenario and the questions you pose. To answer the first question: Yes!!! The team is successful. The challenge in recognizing this success is related to the psychology of sunk costs (don't throw good money after bad). It is extremely hard to have everyone aligned around the idea of _stopping_ something that is already started, because usually the fact that it is started means that everyone "bought in".