For many, Agile is associated with the technology part of your business or one or two pockets in your organisation. It is often thought of as set of routines and practices – stand up meetings, retrospectives, Kanban, etc. We refer to this as DO-ing agile.
However, simply engaging in these practices is not enough for organisations to be strategically ready to adapt to whatever the market requires of them. To be in this position, requires a much more fundamental cultural transformation involving shifting mindsets, behaviours, symbols and systems – BE-ing agile or having an agile culture.
So, what is an agile culture?
Culture is the patterns of behaviour that are encouraged, discouraged or tolerated by people and systems over time. We were excited to discover in our research four distinctive patterns of behaviour of an agile culture – customer-centricity, self-direction, experimentation and collaborative networks which are interdependent and need to occur together to realise the full organisational benefits of Agile.
- Customer Centricity – In an agile culture the customer sits at the heart of what people do and think. Co creation and customer empathy are key. This is underpinned by a curiosity mindset.
- Self-Direction– In an agile culture people believe that they are responsible to deliver to others and leaders trust their employees will deliver on their promises. It’s about setting guardrails and giving people the freedom to act. It is underpinned by a personal responsibility mindset.
- Experimentation – In an agile culture there is openness to feedback and learning. Testing and experimentation are at the heart of how work is structured – this means moving from a right/wrong view of the world to asking ‘I wonder what this intervention will produce?’ or ‘let’s try it and then see if it works’. There is a commitment to fail fast. This is underpinned by a learning mindset.
- Collaborative networks – In an agile culture unlocking the potential of people in teams becomes fundamental for success as problems are too complex for individuals to solve on their own. Teams are self-driven and are connected to customers and each other. They are dynamic, forming and dissipating around specific goals. This is underpinned by a teamwork mindset