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How your culture is shaping your agile


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We've often heard that "Culture eats Strategy for breakfast". Well for years, the largest and longest-running Agile survey has been demonstrating that this is true for Agile adoption as well. The top challenge continues to be "Company philosophy or culture at odds with core agile values".*
With 16 years of working on Agile adoptions in two hemispheres across organisations with widely varying cultures, Rowan sees clear patterns for how culture is shapes Agile in organisations. Not only the style of Agile or pseudo-Agile that you end up with, but even how the concept of Agile itself is framed and perceived.
Given an understanding of your organisational culture, we're coming close to being able to predict how your Agile adoption will play out even before you consider starting! That's unless there is real leadership energy spent on effective cultural change.
In this session we explore crucial questions such as the following for leaders in organisations pursuing Agile.
- What are characteristics of your organisation's culture that are most likely shaping your Agile adoption?
- What is it that your organisation is likely to be misinterpreting about Agile and Scrum given its prevailing culture?
- Why does attempting to adopt good Agile without shifting organisational culture result in either low impact watered down Agile and/or ongoing culture clash?
- Why is Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) so popular in certain sorts of organisations and what are they are missing out on?
- What sorts of changes in belief and behaviour are required of leadership in order to lead a culture change supportive of the phase shift to a higher impact mode of Agile?
- What is it like working in a rare "Agile native" culture?
Time permitting, we'll tell stories of first-hand experience with "Agile native" organisational cultures and what led to them emerging and thriving.

* State of Agile survey:

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How your culture is shaping your agile

  1. 1. How your culture is shaping your Agile @rowanb Rowan Bunning CST - Scrum WithStyle
  2. 2. © 2016 Scrum WithStyle A little about Rowan Bunning • Background in object oriented & web dev. with vendors, enterprise product development, start-ups & consultancies • Introduced to Agile via eXtreme Programming in 2001 as: “the way good Smalltalkers develop software” • Introduced Scrum organisation-wide in 2003-5 • Agile Coach / ScrumMaster at a leading agile consultancy in the U.K. • Have trained about 5,000 people in Scrum & Agile • Certified ScrumMaster® • Certified Scrum Product Owner® • Effective User Stories • Agile Estimating and Planning etc. • One of first Agile Coaches in Australia from late 2008 • Organiser of Regional Scrum Gatherings® in Australia
  3. 3. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle I chose the red pill. I have not found an end to the Agile rabbit hole yet! Image courtesy of Village Roadshow Pictures
  4. 4. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Session outline • Why Agile? • LaLoux culture model in a nutshell Agile in… • Amber organisations • Orange organisations • Green organisations • Teal organisations • What you can do
  5. 5. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Some questions addressed along the way • Q1: What is likely shaping your Agile? • Q2: What is your org likely misinterpreting about Agile and Scrum? • Q3: Why is SAFe so popular and what are SAFe adopters missing out on? • Q3: What sorts of changes are required of leaders in order to shift to high impact Agile?
  6. 6. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Thanks to… Michael Spayd Michael HammanMichael Sahota Jean Tabaka
  7. 7. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Q: What is likely shaping your Agile? Answer 1: Your motivation for pursuing it. Your Why
  8. 8. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle agility is not the same as “faster” “We considered a bunch of names, and agreed eventually on “agile” as we felt that captured the adaptiveness and response to change which we felt was so important to our approach." - Martin Fowler “Agile does not mean delivering faster. Agile does not mean fewer defects or higher quality. Agile does not mean higher productivity. Agile means agile - the ability to move with quick easy grace, to be nimble and adaptable. To embrace change and become masters of change - to compete through adaptability by being able to change faster and cheaper than your competition can." - Craig Larman and Bas Vodde
  9. 9. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Where the term “Agile” came from
  10. 10. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Which has agility? Source:YouTube Source: or
  11. 11. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Ability to steer Photo credits: and not
  12. 12. @rowanb© 2016 Scrum WithStyle – Leon C. Megginson, Professor of Management and Marketing at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. Megginson, ‘Lessons from Europe for American Business’, Southwestern Social Science Quarterly (1963) “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change."
  13. 13. @rowanb© 2016 Scrum WithStyle LaLoux culture model in a nutshell
  14. 14. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 Frederic LaLoux A short history of consciousness theory Spiral Dynamics Clare W. Graves, Ph.D Ken Wilber Integral Theory
  15. 15. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Image source (unmodified): Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organisations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness, by Frederic Laloux. Level of complexity dealt with
  16. 16. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Source: Frederic LaLoux, Reinventing Organizations (Nelson Parker 2014) 20-25% 50% 20-25% 2%
  17. 17. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Agile Agile Culture is here Agile Most organisations have these dominant cultures
  18. 18. @rowanb© 2016 Scrum WithStyle What happens when you attempt to adopt Agile in an organisation with an incompatible culture?
  19. 19. @rowanb© 2016 Scrum WithStyle Conformist - Amber
  20. 20. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Conformist Amber “Agile” in Amber Surrounded by bureaucracy 30% of organisations including most of public sector
  21. 21. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Conformist Amber Amber orgs value the opposite of Agile over Individuals and interactions over Working softwareComprehensive documentation Processes and tools Contract negotiation over Customer collaboration Following a plan over Responding to change The traditional manifesto
  22. 22. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Amber reaction to Agile Principles “No! Our highest priority is to deliver the project to the satisfaction of the sponsor.” “No! Our requirements are known. We don’t want to be changing them.” “No! We need all of it. It would be inefficient to do multiple deliveries.” “No! We have Business Analysts for that. It’s inefficient for business people to be talking with developers who lack BA level people and elicitation skills.”
  23. 23. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Conformist Amber Theory X dominant in Amber Theory X Theory Y Dislike work and avoid it Need to work and can enjoy it Need to control Direct ourselves Avoid responsibility Seek and accept responsibility Motivated by money Motivated to realise our potential Little creativity Highly creative Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  24. 24. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle “That sounds nice but we’re not a tech company that indulges that much in techie stuff. What we do are business projects after all.” “That sounds nice, but when there’s a project deadline looming, we expect everyone to rise to the occassion.” “No! Our steering committees review progresss based on reports of spend vs budget and activity relative to planned milestones.” “That sounds nice, but everything of substance must be in writing so that we know who to hold accountable. We’re in a distributed world too.” “No! Our PMO has a project resourcing process for assigning resources. We trust our managers and team leads. Other resources should just execute.”
  25. 25. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle “No! It’s about delivering all requirements in a complex enterprise environment. Big organisations like ours require big, complicated solutions.” “No! We have separate Architects, BA’s and tech leads for that. Requirements aren’t up for negotiation anyway.” “Sounds nice but we expect them to already be effective. They should be maximising their time executing.” How much of this sounds familiar? Even if we hold a different view personally, to what degree do structures, processes and cultural norms continue to keep things working in a way reflective of these beliefs?
  26. 26. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Conformist Amber Insisting on prediction of the unpredictable "The most serious impediments to using Scrum are habits of waterfall, predictive thinking over the last twenty to thirty years; these have spawned command and control management, belief that demanding something will make it happen, and the willingness of development to cut quality to meet dates. These are inbred habits that we aren’t even aware of anymore." - Ken Schwaber
  27. 27. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Conformist Amber Partial Agile only survives within a protected bubble 📖
  28. 28. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Conformist Amber Against the grain • Hard work protecting the bubble • Heavy reporting up based on predictive plan • Secretive by default • Disinterested in “theory” - can’t reason for continuous improvement 📖 • Positional power up hierarchy where understanding of work situation is limited 📖 • Good Agile is fragile and can be rapidly destroyed 📖
  29. 29. @rowanb© 2016 Scrum WithStyle Achievement - Orange
  30. 30. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Achievement Orange Organisation as machine Language of machine: Measurement and control, efficiency, order, programmes, inputs and outputs, production, top down, bottom-up, centralised, decentralised, roll-out. Language of force: Consistency, standardisation, Get people to, make them… etc. Source:
  31. 31. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Control systems in organisations Market system Bureaucratic system Clan system • Prices drive very efficient decision making • Measure Input and Output • Formal rules, roles, processes, compliance • Supervision, direction and hierarchy • Specialisations enable clearer comparison with like workers • Informal value based rules • Allows innovation and collaboration • Most suitable for unique, interdependent or ambiguous work e.g. software development Reference: A Conceptual Framework for the Design of Organizational Control Mechanisms, William G. Ouchi, Management Science, Vol. 25, No. 9. 1979.
  32. 32. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Bureaucratic control is booming in Amber/Orange Market control Clan control Bureaucratic control • Prices drive very efficient decision making • Measure Input and Output • Formal rules, roles, processes, compliance • Supervision, direction and hierarchy • Specialisations enable clearer comparison with like workers • Informal value based rules • Allows innovation and collaboration • Most suitable for unique, interdependent or ambiguous work e.g. software development
  33. 33. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Achievement Orange Orange orgs want faster but not agility • Shareholder value + IT as a cost centre —> playing a cost side, resource efficiency game • Misinterpret Agile as a tool for increasing efficiency • “Program efficiency” and “delivery” are where Orange orgs believe the problem is • “Agile” the Execute within “Plan-then-Execute” • “iterations” used to build out fixed scope to plan • Actually doing Incremental Development and calling it “Agile” • Not: agility, iteration from customer feedback, working in pure value order or amplified learning,
  34. 34. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Achievement Orange Cargo cult Agile “Orange Organisations increasingly feel obligated to follow the fad: they define a set of values, post them on office walls and company web site, and then ignore them whenever that is more convenient for the bottom line.”
  35. 35. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Achievement Orange Agile positioned as “delivery” tool • Management by Objectives (MbO): “define objectives (predict); follow-up (control); strategic planning; mid-term planning, yearly budgeting cycles, key performance indicators, and balanced scorecards” [LaLoux14] • Leads to negotiating fixed Scope & Date… Contract negotiation over Customer collaboration • “The most serious impediments to using Scrum are habits of waterfall, predictive thinking over the last twenty to thirty years; these have spawned command and control management, belief that demanding something will make it happen, and the willingness of development to cut quality to meet dates. These are inbred habits that we aren’t even aware of anymore.” - Ken Schwaber
  36. 36. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Achievement Orange Agility constrained by hierarchy of objectives Delivery DeliveryDelivery Scrum is put into these boxes Team Program Portfolio
  37. 37. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Achievement Orange Agility constrained by hierarchy of objectives Delivery DeliveryDelivery Scrum is put into these boxes Team Program Portfolio SAFe fits neatly into the Amber-Orange status quo structures and mindset rather than offering a path to transcending it.
  38. 38. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Achievement Orange Project/PI focus over customer focus • Programs, projects as means of control • Projects, Programs, PMO abstract away the external customer • Internal stakeholder interests dominate over external customers • Big programmes = big batches Project Focus on project delivery 😃 😞 Focus on Customer
  39. 39. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Water-Scrum-Fall 💡 $ ArchitectsBusiness AnalystsProject Control Board User Reps Operations SIT UAT System Testers Deployment 😞 Benefits Realisation begins Business case Big Batch Specification Big Batch Project Scope Product Backlog Current Product Users Limited Coverage Agile Team Programmers & Testers only Months 2 weeks each iteration Months Released Dependent on other groups to get anything specified or released
  40. 40. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle SAFe adopters are likely missing… • agility • high responsiveness • ability to work in value order • elimination of dependencies • Systems Thinking and optimising the whole • customer collaboration over contract negotiation • genuinely collaboratively business-development relationship rather than continuation of The Contract Game • minimum viable bureaucracy • high performing teams
  41. 41. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Achievement Orange Clash with self-organisation • Pre-defined job titles and roles impede self-organisation • Individual performance review • Efficiency drive + technical work = • narrow division of labour + hierarchy for technical supervision • local optimisation • Opposite of generalising specialists and Scrum rule of no titles or sub- teams
  42. 42. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Achievement Orange Professional mask impediment • Fear of disempowerment an elephant in the room impediment to Agile adoption • "Emotions, doubts, and dreams are best kept behind a mask, so that we do not make ourselves vulnerable. Our identity is no longer fused with our need to be seen as competent and successful, ready for the next promotion.” [LaLoux14] Image credit:
  43. 43. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Achievement Orange What Amber/Orange orgs get wrong • Mistake Scrum and Agile as just another process to be compliantly followed • Agile framed as a delivery method not requiring change by senior managers • By pursuing fast and/or efficient, starve adoption of slack for learning • Attempt Agile within ‘The Contract Game’ of up-front scope & date negotiation • Add Agile in addition to what already exists rather than rationalising it
  44. 44. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Transitioning from Orange to Green Involves eliminating formal constraints replacing them with team self-regulation, values, responsibility, inspect & adapt
  45. 45. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle “I visualise Scrum as a rocket. Pushing that rocket forward is the power of its engines. But puling it back are the forces of gravity. If the rocket it able to push far enough, it can enter into orbit. But if it cannot, it will inevitably get pulled back to earth, right where it started. The implications of Scrum must be pushed far enough into other parts of the organisation so that the entire transition is not pulled back by organisational gravity.” - Mike Cohn, Succeeding with Agile Escape velocity
  46. 46. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Leaders must go first for organisational culture change
  47. 47. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Orange vs Green executive stories In order to hit our predicted half-yearly profit target, As an executive, I want all projects run to produce the predicted results on time and budget. Orange In order to continually delight customers in a turbulent market, As an executive, I want high capability teams of people with purpose and passion, learning about customers and creating high value products that serve the interests of all stakeholders. Green
  48. 48. @rowanb© 2016 Scrum WithStyle Pluralistic Green
  49. 49. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Pluralistic Green Interdependence and Shared Values • Motivation: Power has shifted to Customer / constituent, need to “Delight” the customer • Structure around customer value creation • “Culture is paramount” - deliberate culture • Share values instead of policies, processes • Value Relationships over Outcomes • Honest about uncertainty 📖 Image credit: < 20% of organisations inc. start-ups and growth mode
  50. 50. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Pluralistic Green Customer Collaboration • Vendor seeks ongoing partnership with client 📖 • Multi-stakeholder win-win-win increases complexity • Agility required to wrestle success • Value side management • Business steering development directly makes sense (Product Owner) 📖 Image credit:
  51. 51. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Achievement Orange Organisation as Organism, Culture Organism language: “Living systems, environmental conditions, adaptation, life cycles, recycling, needs, homeostasis, evolution, survival of the fittest, health, illness.” Culture language: “Socialise, values, beliefs, ideology, rituals, diversity, traditions, history, service, shared vision and mission, understanding, qualities, families.” Source: Photo credit:
  52. 52. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Pluralistic Green Green is easily misunderstood from an Amber/Orange perspective " is clear to me that PRINCE2 is agile, and therefore I have always been running projects in an agile way since I started my project management career. I fully expect Agile to fade away given time and perhaps end its days as a niche small project delivery (web projects) [approach] advocated by the major web agencies such as Conchango.” - Kevin Brady, 2011 Source:
  53. 53. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Pluralistic Green And now, some words of wisdom from my favourite management though leader…
  54. 54. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Pluralistic Green Inverted hierarchy • Distaste for power imbalance • Inverted hierarchy where management supports teams • “Frontline workers make far- reaching decisions without management approval” 📖 Image credit: Large-Scale Scrum: More with LeSS by Craig Larman and Bas Vodde
  55. 55. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Pluralistic Green Green values Servant-leadership • “Green insists that leaders should be in service of those they lead.” • “In some innovating companies, managers are not appointed from above, but from below; subordinates choose their boss, after interviewing prospective candidates.” [LaLoux14]
  56. 56. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Evolutionary Teal Team Performance Curve Source: The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-performance Organisation, by Jon R. Katzenbach, Douglas K. Smith, Harvard Business Press, 1993. The “Compromise Units” ________________ ______________________ ____________________ All the characteristics of a real team, but the members are deeply committed to one another’s personal growth and development Equally committed to a common purpose, goals, and working approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. ___________ Has not yet established collective accountability. Requires more clarity about purpose, goals or work-products and more discipline in hammering out a common working approach. ______________ Has not focused on collective performance and is not really trying to achieve it. Has no interest in shaping a common purpose or performance goals. _______________ Members act primarily to share information, best practices, or perspectives and to make decisions to help each individual perform within his or her area of responsibility. ___________ Working group PerformanceImpact Time Pseudo-team Potential team Real team Exceptional team Real teams come naturally
  57. 57. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle 😞😃 Folding everyone into end-to-end teams $ Flow of Value Benefits Realisation begins Vision & Business Goals Product Backlog Current Product Users Feature Team that is fully cross-functional 2 weeks each iteration Released💡 Feedback re Product and Process quality OperationsSystem Testers The Agile Team has the skills and authority to create usable Product Increments each iteration Architect Business Analysts Broadening of skills
  58. 58. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Finally… Scrum makes perfect sense • The elements of Scrum that get broken in Orange orgs make perfect sense in Green ✓ Agility ✓ Customer collaboration ✓ Servant-leadership ✓ Self-management (Teal)
  59. 59. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle High Impact Agile Overall Impact Extent of Scrum Adoption High Impact zone •Green-Teal consciousness dominant in leadership •Leading deliberate Green-Teal culture •Thinking and doing as per implications of Scrum and Lean principles •Environment nurtures high engagement and high performing teams Implementation as per what is explicit Scrum Guide only Superficial “fake Agile” as typically implemented
  60. 60. @rowanb© 2016 Scrum WithStyle Evolutionary Teal
  61. 61. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Evolutionary Teal Teal: purpose, self-management and possibility • Perceived context: we evolve with the world • Belief: amazing things will emerge from a truly supportive environment • About unleashing human ingenuity • Volunteering, free choice, true taking of Responsibility 📖 • No projects - long-lived product development • No budgets - why create scarcity, why play games with each other? Image credit: Very few organisations
  62. 62. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Evolutionary TealCPJ inspired by Jeff Bezos' most recent annual letter. Distributed decision making
  63. 63. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Evolutionary Teal Self-management • No “reporting lines” • High agency teams, little formal structure to take power away • Org functioned as social network • Trust relationships valued • Team interaction directly with visionary Executive • Recent comments… “had a great culture” “best team I’ve ever worked in” Image credit: @NielsPflaeging Twitter
  64. 64. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Evolutionary Teal People and roles are organic, dynamic • Team involvement in hiring • Not hired into narrowly defined job. Instead, roles emerges from individual • Uncool to refer to someone by job title • “Job titles and descriptions hardly do justice to unique combinations of roles, and they are too static to account for the fluid nature of work in Teal Organisations.” [LaLoux14] • Empathy is essential 📖
  65. 65. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Evolutionary Teal Psychological safety Pair Programming taken up readily as safety existed 📖 See Google’s Project Aristotle Image credit: Calqui
  66. 66. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Hypothesis Driven Development
  67. 67. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Evolutionary Teal Wholeness • Encouraged to be yourself 📖 • Non-conformists • Strong intrinsic motivation and loyalty 📖 Photo:
  68. 68. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Evolutionary Teal Evolutionary purpose, breakthrough innovation Inventions in the 1990’s and early 2000’s… 📖 • Enterprise collection management product used by Library of Congress, Bundesarchiv etc. • One of first web app languages • One of first e-retail sites • Most complex Govt. transaction in 1999 to register for ABN • First semantic XML-based content management • Meta-level object framework for business application development • Semantic web-based knowledge system re- definable without programmer • Solar thermal “big dish” Photo: Unknown via Aperture
  69. 69. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Evolutionary Teal Humility is a challenge • Social proof from the “big corporates” • Status through position or individual achievement • Impediments to progressing… • Ego, identity and positional status • Fear of vulnerability and looking incompetent • Lack of trust between managers separated from the work • Lack of belief in team-based and self- regulating alternatives Image credit:
  70. 70. @rowanb© 2016 Scrum WithStyle Conclusions
  71. 71. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle Summary of Insights • Many are pursuing Agile for the “wrong” reasons* • Organisations are (mis)interpreting Agile to fit their current level of consciousness • “faster, cheaper” motivation bends “Agile” to be an incremental delivery tool to project goals at the expense of customer-centric agility • Water-Scrum-Fall is a typical consequence • The elements of Scrum and good Agile that get broken in Orange orgs are what makes perfect sense in Green • “An organisation cannot evolve beyond its leadership’s stage of development.” * Pursuing ends for which it was not intended by those who invented it
  72. 72. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle What you can do yourself • Listen for language reflecting a machine metaphor • Have the confidence to take of your Professional Mask, say “I don’t know” • Cultivate your own Green and Teal beliefs and share them
  73. 73. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle What you can do to invite others Image credit: Yi Lv, Odd-e Example Causal Loop Diagram• Ask leadership: • why change? • would you like to talk about culture & leadership? • Talk about sources of uncertainty, variability • Tell stories and engineer experiences that challenge limiting beliefs • Use Systems Thinking to explore current beliefs about organisational dynamics • Point out where behaviour is not aligned with purported aspiration
  74. 74. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle To learn more… • Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux • • We the people: Consenting to a deeper democracy by John Buck and Sharon Villines • • • • What would it take to Have and Agile Enterprise? michael-spayd-keynote • • Obliquity: Why Our Goals Are Best Achieved Indirectly by John Kay • Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery for Anticipating and Initiating Change by William B. Joiner • Talk to me… I have many more stories!
  75. 75. @rowanb© 2017 Scrum WithStyle @rowanb Rowan Bunning