Did you ever hear the quote “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” attributed to Peter Drucker? But what do we mean by “Culture”? According to Wikipedia: “Culture is the social behaviour and norms found in human societies. Culture is a central concept in anthropology, encompassing the range of phenomena that are transmitted through social learning in human societies.”
As an Agile Coach, culture is the first element we need to grasp in order to have a positive impact on a new organization. An Agile engagement often starts with a strong desire to becoming “productive”, alongside the elephant in the room… “Let’s be Agile, but no need to change in our team, or in our group”… Thinking differently faces strong headwinds from many wishing to stick to “this is how we have always done it”. This is a natural reaction but unfortunately, it is also the first obstacle that gets in the way of innovation and opportunities.
While reading the book “Lean Change Management” from Jason Little, I learned quite a few new things about managing change with the Agile mindset. Often change is organized and delivered in projects… We want everything to be perfect from the start, and foolishly without surprises! In the book, Jason presents a different perspective to change, let’s plan small, iterate, adjust and repeat… Change cannot be a project, it’s a journey.
Create a Change Coalition and work from Information Radiators, Jason says. It took me no time to test the concepts and apply another approach he calls “Culture Hacking”. After doing some research to better understand the technique, I decided to try it. Where there are problems, there is opportunity! Each issue brings added chaos and a culture hack is simply an intentional action taken to affect small positive cultural change within the organization.
The organization’s culture is comprised of attitudes and assumptions, roles, processes, values and communication practices. Culture Hacking is simply about finding the little things you can do to create iterative changes.
As a coach, my guiding role is to help teams and organizations generate incremental value with a set of values, principles and techniques. To apply my new hacker role, I started by observing the culture and subcultures around me to better understand how it affects me and find opportunities to solve problems and promote change. Then, I look for the “cracks”, and they can be found in everything, you just need to look where the light gets in! Once I have an idea of a value-added change, I start creating something that has never been done, information radiators on walls. Then to make the change acceptable and stick, I gather supporters with common interests to collaborate. There is always someone interested!
From my perspective, if Agile Coaches shoot at changing the organization culture, they will be looking for new jobs quickly. Taking the alternative approach of hacking the culture, generates options to iterate on the change and thus create a unique subculture with new values which opens the door to a new lexicon influencing the main culture.