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Redefine, Reimagine, Reboot your agile culture

Updated: Apr 3

Agile has been the buzzword in work environments for a while. True to its definition, an Agile work environment paves the way for holistic development in the organization. Though synonymous with greater success rates, increased productivity and happier employees, not all companies making the shift have fully harnessed its potential. There is widespread acknowledgement that Agile is a mindset change, but companies continue to focus on “process” and leaders stay away from “leading” the mindset change.

According to the State of Agile report 2021, the biggest barriers to agile adoption are

  • Inconsistencies in process and practices (46%)

  • Culture clashes (43%)

  • Resistance to change and (42%)

  • Lack of skills and experience (42%)

Agile is still seen as a “software/IT” initiative and nearly 3 in 4 implementations are in Technology initiatives. Another common issue is that Agile Coaches focus only on Scrum and process rigour while ignoring culture and mindset shift.

So, what does an organization need to have an Agile transformation? Here’s what you need.

Redefine your focus

A Head of Technology once claimed – “I have personally spent several hours training my team and asking them to follow Agile”. In another instance, a BU Head mentioned – “I want a full transformation of my team. They really need to change”

Both these are classic wrong starts. While the Head of Technology “asked the team” the BU Head said “they”.

One of the first steps in the Agile journey is to redefine the role of managers and senior management.

Leaders should focus on managing the outcomes rather than tasks.

They should explain the purpose of the initiatives and gain commitment from their teams. If the team faces challenges, the Leader should facilitate and allow the team to find solutions rather than jumping in and give orders.

It is imperative for the management to include the team in decision-making. This can venture beyond just the product-related decisions and include people-related choices too. If you’re looking to hire for a role, look at what your team thinks they need. This can help bring a new perspective to help find the right candidate. Similarly, including your team in decision-making makes them feel seen, heard and encourages them to show ownership and add more value to the discussion.

HR department needs to play a proactive role in framing policies to promote teamwork and reward “team efforts” above “individual accomplishments”. Feedback is unfortunately associated with a negative connotation. The most widely accepted interpretation of “feedback” is telling someone what they need to improve upon.

Rather than supervisor led feedback, HR would need to bring in “real feedback” by bringing in systems and enablers for peer-communication, peer-recognition, peer-rewards and remove the stigma associated with hierarchical feedback

As the teams get used to peer-mechanisms, Business and HR Leaders should consider including the team in goal formulation, performance reviews and rewarding. This will significantly enhance ownership, motivation, and productivity.

With hybrid working, employee engagement is at its lowest point with some managers not seeing their teams’ face even on virtual calls.

The shift from a conventional hierarchy to an inclusive one isn’t easy but a need of the hour.

Reimagine your approach

When some organizations opt for an agile environment, we often witness a haphazard implementation. This is largely due to informal grooming of the team on what is Agile and falsely believing that Scum = Agile. Leaders should assimilate the principles of Agile and have a deep understanding of those principles.

Laser focus on adding value to customer, building trust, enhancing ownership, spirit of collaboration as a team, creating self organizing teams and developing a learning culture are some aspects that need deep understanding at a leadership level.

Leaders should then disseminate this understanding to their teams in various formats. At the risk of repeating themselves, they should maximise their communication – company blog sites, emails, LinkedIn posts, townhalls speeches, brown bag meetings, induction for new joinees, etc

By repeating themselves, Leaders make it clear, this is the “mantra” of the organization and this is what everyone should chant. Leaders need to embrace the role of facilitators of the teams’ growth and success and enable the team to get accustomed to the change slowly.

They should play the role of catalysts for the team to understand their reason for doing and demonstrate they perform as a team and not perform within the team.

On the other hand, the employees need to be given a chance to probe their role and involvement in the team. Questions about self-assessment, self-set goals, their expectations from the management to reach the goals, their abilities to self manage, resolve conflicts, and create a conducive work environment can help the employees take ownership of their goals and holistically produce better results. When they are treated as Adults, employees usually behave as Adults.

Reboot the essence

Rebooting your existing methodologies to fit the Agile environment involves a complete cultural overhaul, and this cannot happen overnight and understandably so.

The pros of the Agile environment include the fluidity in its implementation. It allows for a gradual change through multiple feedback and iterations until you reach the desired level of perfection required to achieve your objectives.

In fact, your Agile transition can be assisted by a clear blueprint offering a step-by-step process to implement Agile Culture transformation that’s effective.

The reboot usually starts with an “Agile Culture Backlog” that focuses on

● Starting small

● Incorporating feedback

● Building on momentum

Midway through the transformation, the Head of Technology quoted earlier mentioned – Teams now ask “why” questions and hold each other accountable. They debate without fear, run their own ceremonies and acknowledge each other.

Now, that is needle movement in the positive direction.

This iterative approach assists in refining priorities at both the corporate and team levels and encourages more possibilities for cooperation. It gives teams time to evolve into self-management and trust their leaders to supply them with all the knowledge and resources required to achieve their objectives.

Switching to an agile environment requires intricate planning. Engaging with an agile culture coach can help you transition smoothly.

If you are planning on an Agile culture transformation, let’s connect here.


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