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About Johanna Rothman

Johanna Rothman
Johanna consults, speaks, and writes about managing product development. She helps managers and leaders do reasonable things that work. You can read more of her writings at jrothman.com.

Agile Transformation: See Your System and Culture (Part 3)

If you read my scaling agile series, you can see that becoming an agile organization requires seeing your organization as a system with a culture. You can start with teams, move to programs and the product part of the organization. If you don’t also address the cultural problems of rewards, you won’t continue with your agile transformation.

You know why you want the organization to use agile approaches. You’re practicing change. How can you see your system and your culture?

See Your Organization as a System

When I talk about seeing your organization as a system, I mean how the parts work together and reinforce each other.

When managers don’t make the (quite difficult) project portfolio decisions and ask people to multitask, they create a system that:

  • Causes and reinforces a lot of organizational WIP (Work in Progress)
  • The system has increased Cost of Delay for all projects and work
  • The system rewards resource efficiency instead of flow efficiency
  • All of these problems make managing the project portfolio even more difficult.

The system of work is one where people feel as if they are on a hamster wheel, running around and around.

It’s no one person’s fault. It’s the system.

Define Culture

Edgar Schein defines culture as how people treat each other, what people can discuss, and how the organization rewards people.

If you have a system anything like the above, the managers often feel as if they must reward the heroes,  not collaboration. That action reinforces solo work as experts, more resource efficiency, not flow efficiency or collaboration.

The system creates the culture and the culture reinforces the system. You might not have these particular problems. You might have others.

Saying “reward flow efficiency” or “ask people to collaborate” might help small pieces of the system and the culture. However, they are not enough. That’s why Practicing Change and Knowing Why are a part of an agile transformation.

Published on Java Code Geeks with permission by Johanna Rothman , partner at our JCG program. See the original article here: Agile Transformation: See Your System and Culture, Part 3

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