While the term “Agile” might sound broken-record-like because of its overuse, it definitely shouldn’t be just a buzzword. Promoting an Agile culture within an organisation can help you complete projects faster, and more efficiently… but only if you do it right!
A culture based on agility means being more flexible and adaptable, allowing for self-organizing teams, having a high level of trust in your employees and coworkers, being able to delegate, spontaneously being able to react to a situation, and constantly measuring results and trying to improve. Yikes!
Think you are ready to take on an agile culture? Time to put your money where your mouth is.
Understand what a company culture means, in the first place
By definition, company culture is at the heart of everything that happens within an organisation: it’s the way people do things, how they work, what their beliefs, values and goals are, the strategies an organization lives by… When it comes to actually enforcing culture, some think it doesn’t take much more than a friendly reminder of your mission, values and vision at the yearly meeting, or simply framing a nice corporate culture quote at the entrance of the office.
Let me put it this way: simply writing your 100,000$ yearly sales objective as a salesperson on the wall won’t make it happen, now will it? Same goes for company culture.
Sure, writing your company culture motto on walls is great, but it’s so much more than that. You actually need to implement it, make sure everyone knows what it’s all about, ensure employees live and breathe it in their everyday job, believe in it, and do whatever it takes to make it shine.
Be ready for change management and flexibility
In order to adopt an agile company culture, you need to assess if your organisation can deal with flexibility and change management. Whether it be flexible work arrangements (schedules, remote-work, unlimited vacation) or being able to think on your feet when faced with a problem, it’s mandatory to assess if your organization has what it takes to face change and adaptability without fear.
Be careful, though!
With each change initiative comes its share of skeptical people. People won’t want to embark on the change clique if they don’t know what the ultimate goal is; make it your mission to guarantee that they do! And don’t forget that it’s almost impossible to initiate change if you don’t truly know what people need to do to embrace it, so make sure you plan it well, control it, measure the outcomes, and adjust and react quickly with retrospectives.
An agile culture starts with, but is not limited to, management
An agile company culture – or any type of stable culture, for that matter – just can’t happen without the right managers to do the job. Micromanagers: you might want to skip this section.
Implementing an agile culture is all about developing trust, being transparent, and accepting and asserting that it’s ok for people to make mistakes. Fail, and move forward.
If you feel like managers (or yourself!) have a hard time empowering employees without looking over their shoulder every two seconds, then a little adjustment in management styles might not be such a bad idea if you want to make this agile culture happen.
Mind you: don’t solely blame the managers for a company culture that goes down the drain. Remember that building any type of culture starts with acknowledging that it’s everyone’s responsibility to promote it throughout the organisation.
Get to know your teams to empower them!
If you think knowing your team is about organizing a yearly BBQ with employees and chatting about their weekend around the coffee machine, then you’re barking up the wrong tree. Knowing your team to empower them involves recognizing many aspects, each one more important than the other:
- Openness to experience
One way to really get to know the people you work with, in order to build better teams, reinforce work dynamics, and ensure efficiency is through talent analysis. You’ll be able to know if they are more likely to interact with one another, collaborate with one another, and appreciate teamwork; aspects that are crucial to adopting an agile culture.
So start assessing and acknowledging that your workforce is naturally built to be agile!
Involve the entire organization
An agile culture is NOT just a software programmers’ story; it involves the entire organisation.
Remember when we talked about being adaptable and being able to embrace change, earlier? Well, in order to adopt an agile culture, the whole company needs to want to get on board and change their methods.
There’s a reason it’s called COMPANY culture, and not a team culture!
Improve, progress, develop and improve some more
In Agile cultures, success means always striving for more. If you made the commitment to be good, you need to make a new commitment to be great. It might sound a little like an are-you-ever-going-to-be-satisfied statement, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
If you think you are ready to adopt such culture, be ready to improve everything: collaboration, deadlines, communication, behaviors, performance, quality, satisfaction, effectiveness, attitudes…
And how do you do that?
One-on-ones, coaching or pair working are perfect examples!
People, teams, and organizations need to improve continuously to defer failure for as long as possible.
– Jurgen Appelo, Management 3.0
Be patient: it won’t happen overnight
Again, being able to embrace such change can require more effort and more time for some. Being able to adopt an agile culture, or any type of learning culture, is about changing a whole mindset; and that takes time.
Remember that you’re basically trying to change the way you get things done around the organization.
I know adopting an agile culture might sometimes be hard (guilty as charged), especially if your current corporate culture seems far off. But with these tips, along with a tad of agility and flexibility, I’m sure you can do it!
Is your organization really for that kind of agility?