Agile Culture –> Self-Managing People

Four years ago, I argued that Agile is a Culture System focussed on Collaboration and Cultivation. We may build on and refine this understand to see that Agile points towards a higher level of organizational consciousness and the benefits that come with it. In particular, Agile is about valuing people and setting them free to deliver.

The Agile Manifesto & Principles

Let’s use the Laloux Culture Model as a lens for understanding the Agile Manifesto. If you haven’t read about this yet, it is fantastic – go read it now – otherwise this post will not make much sense.

When we colour code each of the manifesto statements to match various stages of consciousness we get:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools (Green)
Working software over comprehensive documentation (Orange)
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation (Green)
Responding to change over following a plan (Teal)

We see that the Agile manifesto is a mix of ideas from different levels.

Agile Principles

  • Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. (Green)
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in  development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage. (Teal)
  • Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale. (Orange)
  • Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project. (Green)
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done. (Green)
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation. (Green)
  • Working software is the primary measure of progress. (Orange)
  • Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely. (Teal)
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility. (Teal)
  • Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential. (n/a)
  • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams. (Teal)
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly. (Teal)

Note: Some principles are not colour coded since I didn’t really see how they fit. If you have ideas, please post a comment.

Agile is Teal/Green

When we tally up the results, we get the following for Agile Culture:

  • 6 – Teal Stage – Self-management, Distributed power, and emergence. 
  • 6 – Green Stage – People: purpose, values and empowerment
  • 3 – Orange Stage – Achievement

In a diagram, it looks like this:

Agile Culture

The Agile Manifesto is pointing to a way of working that is at the Teal/Green stage. Elements of Scrum such as emergence and self-organizing teams are very closely connected with the Teal stage.

In summary, Agile Culture is about organizations operating at a higher level of consciousness with self-managing people.

Implications for Using Agile

For organizations at the orange stage (most large companies) Agile will be experienced as a disruptive force. As all the elements of culture need to shift together, Agile will by necessity be watered down or contained. This is what we typically see – Agile Adoption – with Enterprise Agile or Scaling Agile.

The main challenge for Agile Culture is that it is only a partial specification for operating at a Teal/Green stage. As can be see from Whole Agile, we need to consider other cultural and organizational elements for a holistic solution. We must look beyond Agile to allow Agile to succeed. This is the path of organizational transformation.

Michael K Sahota guides and teaches leaders how to create high-performance organizations. He is the creator of a proven system for leading change through a practical playbook. His model for Consciously Approaching Agile guides the creation of a cultural and leadership context where Agile creates lasting organizational results. Michael has taught over 1000 leaders worldwide through his highly acclaimed “Agile” Culture & Leadership Training. His company, Agilitrix, delivers “Agile Transformation- Redefined” with an elite team of consultants who specialize in unlocking Culture.

Tagged with:
, , ,

Find Content

Adoption Agile Agile2009 Agile Failure Agile in the Large Agile Tour Toronto Change Artist Christine Day Coaching Communication Container Craftsmanship Creativity Empathy Facilitation Fear Games and Simulations Hierarchy Kanban Kotter Leadership Lean Management Observing Organizational Change Organizational Culture People Personal Growth Production Product Strategy Project Management Red Pill Safety Scrum Strategic Play Teamwork Technical Practices Training Training from the Back of the Room Transformation Transition Trust VAST Vulnerability XP

Leave a Reply