“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is an old quote that still cuts deep in today’s century as one of the fundamental philosophies believed to drive all, if not most, organization’s competitive edge.

Schein (2010 and 2004) defines organizational culture as a pattern of shared basic assumptions that is learned by a group as it solves its problems of external adaptation and internal integration that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.

Sathe (1985) defines organizational culture as the set of important assumptions, often unstated, that members of a community share in common.

Looking at these two definitions of culture, gives us an opportunity to explore why Agile is perceived as a mindset shift and therefore requiring a change in culture not limited to practices, tools, and techniques for it to stick and to realize its expected benefits to customers, business, and employees.

Agile is built on a set of principles and values that are supported by various practices, tools and processed to give it a bit of structure. If we know the story behind the Agile Manifesto and values where a group of people met to try and find common ground on how to deal with issues pertaining to software development, they came up with a set of values that helped to guide them on dealing with traditional issues of software development and they believed would guide others in the industry as well.

These values, assumptions and tools were tested to solve problems and were taught to others as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to problems as stated by Schein (2010 and 2004) in their definition of culture.

Importantly, Having the right tools in the wrong hands’ is often dangerous. “Wrong hands” in this case literally speaks to the wrong mindset.

Its people who make use of those tools and processes to work and to achieve the desired state at the end. So, it’s equally important for leaders to invest more on people and culture than they do on tools and processes (technology).

The right mindset on agile comes to play when we embrace and embody the agile principles and values to help us see the bigger picture and ultimately understand the value of doing things as expected. The moment people are disconnected to understanding the value of doing something, it becomes a challenge to have the right mindset and culture that can drive for the desired state of the organization.

That is the reason why we have a distinction between “doing agile and being agile”.

People can easily adopt certain agile practices to an extend but still not deriving value from them. This is simply because they are “doing agile” but not “being agile”.

“Being agile” is when everyone in the team or an organization has a shared understanding of the values and principles of agile which drives for the right culture and mindset beneficial for true agility. It is obvious that when we speak culture, leadership plays a critical role in laying the right foundation suitable to support for this culture. A Change management strategy and framework in support of leadership plays a pivotal role in helping any organization on its transformational journey and to help in embedding the right culture and mindset.

This gives leverage in closing the gap on the question “Why Agile?”.

In closing, I want to emphasize on the importance of the right mindset to drive the type of culture important for agile to thrive. Technicalities and underlying processes and approaches for driving the right mindset and culture is a topic for another day, but we need to continually work at adopting an Agile mindset.

Published On: November 7th, 2022 / Categories: Agile, Agile Methodology /