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Inside an Agile Culture


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Exploring the Business Cultures of Agile, Japan, and Your Own Head

Exploring the Business Cultures of Agile, Japan, and Your Own Head

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  • 1. 1
  • 2. Using Japan as an example, we’ll explore how our ways of thinking affect group work.Explore how you might use this to transform your work teams. 2
  • 3. Culture is the invisible cognitive and emotional atmosphere that surrounds us. Youmight live in many cultures; your work culture and your family culture are twoexamples. Your attitude and your awareness helps you succeed in cultures orsubcultures different from your own. In our discussion we’ll use Japan’s culture as anexample of cultures different from ours. “Intercultural competence” is the skill ofnavigating in unfamiliar cultural waters. 3
  • 4. I’ve learned that many business problems are actually cultural or mindset problems indisguise. Culture is tricky because it’s hard to see or describe, and because ourpersonal viewpoint prevents us from seeing other viewpoints. Our business culture,addicted to formal facts and procedure, tends to disregard the impact of culture. 4
  • 5. Our business culture likes to write training manuals so our work can be transferred toothers. Because of this, we favor easily documentable “hard skills” like procedure thatexists in the realm of formal or explicit knowledge. Unfortunately, this makes usdisregard domains of “tacit knowledge” that are hard to explain because they areabout relationships and perceptions. Culture is in the domain of tacit knowledge. 5
  • 6. Lets define the words I’ll use today. We’ll explore how these concepts are connected. 6
  • 7. Today’s themes: the intersections of five concepts. 7
  • 8. A camping trip in Japan with Japanese friends teaches me how many Japanese groupswork. 8
  • 9. I had trouble fitting into the group. My beliefs and assumptions got in the way.“Monkey see, monkey do” helped me contribute. It was up to me to fit in. 9
  • 10. Lets do an exercise. Explore our heads. Can you hear the voice(s)? That’s one wayculture shows up. Being “logical”, we pretend it’s not there…. It changes dependingon what we’re doing and who we’re with. 10
  • 11. Me! I am the center of my personal universe! My identity is shaped by the culturesaround me. I’m probably not aware of the cultures and memes *ideas transmittedfrom person to person or culture to culture (]that influence me. Even atheists are influenced by religious values without knowingor wanting it. 11
  • 12. What is “culture”? It’s our beliefs (you can probably describe a few, but can only“feel” the rest), that voice in your head (we can’t always describe it), and the peopleor groups we admire or aspire to (Mom, Dad, people like Mother Theresa, The XYZPolitical Party, etc ). 12
  • 13. “Agile” is a term that’s been superimposed on a number of related concepts,methods, and techniques.Underlying “Agile” is the field of complexity science, which posits that the world isnot the mechanistic world of the 1800’s, where one change creates predictablechanges. The world is also not subject to reductionism, so we can’t figure out thewhole world by understanding each of its parts. Instead the world is a system ofinterconnected systems where a change in one system creates unpredictable changesin the rest. These “Complex Adaptive Systems” include hard-to-model things likefinancial markets, economic systems, weather systems, and social systems. Love,family relationships, and work groups are complex adaptive systems too. 13
  • 14. I’ll be contrasting “Plan Driven” (AKA “Waterfall) models with Agile. Although somepeople argue that true “Waterfall” software projects don’t really exist (there is alwayssome change management involved) contrasting the two approaches is instructive. 14
  • 15. The plan-driven model relies on “Big Up-Front Planning” (BUFP), plus the assumptionthat we can anticipate most stuff in advance.Agile model breaks the project into many short iterations. In each iteration we re-planand re-prioritize, enabling continuous change management. 15
  • 16. Why do Japanese and Agile business cultures have so much in common? They havethe same guru. Deming was big in Japan but misunderstood in the USA. 16
  • 17. ….using Japanese culture as an example, we’ll explore Agile concepts, then relatethem to the beliefs inside our heads. 17
  • 18. This is a legend (map) of the symbols and format I’ll use in subsequent slides. 18
  • 19. Two concepts behind Japan’s culture of resilience. Used together. 19
  • 20. Another concept behind Japan’s resilience. Japanese teams willingly work incredibleovertime to meet deadlines. There’s an admirable attitude of not complaining, andworking selflessly to achieve the team’s goals. In my opinion, “not complaining” is agreat trait to adopt, but the downside I’ve seen is a tendency to maintainunsustainable workloads. “Death by overwork” = 過労死 (karoushi). 20
  • 21. 21
  • 22. How many Japanese teams are formed. 22
  • 23. How the group makes decisions. Why bosses are often “servant leaders”. 23
  • 24. How to communicate. Why contracts are often disregarded or seen as formalites. 24
  • 25. What Japanese are mindful of. How they self-regulate their behavior. The teamfunctions well when everyone is mindful of how they fit in. Fitting in is YOUR job. 25
  • 26. How quality is developed. A deeply embedded relationship between customer andprovider that’s been around for centuries. Pronounced as: 「お客様は神様」=“Okyakusama wa kamisama”. 26
  • 27. A typical (but tidier than normal) Japanese office. Desk in front seats six. The bossmight sit at head of table watching over the team. 27
  • 28. Office seating arrangements obligate you to be part of the team. All the time. Work-from-home arrangements are very rare. 28
  • 29. Japan society is structured by age and gender. This is reinforced by the rank, age, andgender-aware language you are expected use with your colleagues. Beingprofessional at work means behaving in ways appropriate to your gender, age, andsocial status. This creates “office family” roles and expectations. 29
  • 30. From movie “Kamikaze Girls” by Tetsuya Nagashima. Movie portrays real-life femaleteenage cliques, their fashion poses, and the romanticized ideals they stand for.Novels and “manga” comic books might inspire these cliques. See the movie forfunny and enlightening Japanese social satire. 30
  • 31. Japanese often criticize their group-oriented culture for creating factionalism.Factions show up in many groups, creating exclusion and bullying in kids, anddysfunctional political power struggles in politics and company boardrooms. Whenit’s good, it can create healthy competition. Walk through Tokyo’s teen fashion districtHarajuku to see the latest in teenage clique clothing trends.... 31
  • 32. An online game developer I worked at embraced this fully. The builds were internalreleases for internal evaluation. It worked. 32
  • 33. The Agile Manifesto is one of the clearest declarations of Agile principles. It wascreated in 2001 by the Agile Alliance and signed by: Kent Beck, Mike Beedle, Arie vanBennekum, Alistair Cockburn, Ward Cunningham, Martin Fowler, James Grenning, JimHighsmith, Andrew Hunt, Ron Jeffries, Jon Kern, Brian Marick, Robert C. Martin, SteveMellor, Ken Schwaber, Jeff Sutherland, Dave ThomasMany of the above have written Agile’s best books.Agile ideas had been around since the mid 1990’s. This was the first attempt tocrystallize everyone’s thinking. 33
  • 34. From the Agile Alliance. Useful principles to use in your own organization’s agileadoption. 34
  • 35. From the Agile Alliance. Useful principles to use in your own organization’s agileadoption. 35
  • 36. Download the first item (a podcast) for a riveting story about Japan, Agile concepts,General Motors, Toyota, and their NUMMI joint venture near San Francisco. 36
  • 37. “Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught” – Oscar Wilde 37
  • 38. Blog ideas especially welcome! 38