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Preface to The Agile Culture: Leading through Trust and Ownership

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The authors of The Agile Culture: Leading through Trust and Ownership introduce their book and explain how their set of proven tools can help organizational members at any level create a culture that embraces and fosters Agile methodologies and delivers products customers love.

Given today’s rapidly changing business cycles, it is essential that leaders transform their organizations to be value-driven, responsive, and incredibly agile. The largest barrier to Agile adoption is not knowing how to change the culture to one focused on learning how to delight customers. This book provides and explains tools and models that leaders can use to create the vision for and implement this culture transformation.

It is not easy to go from a date-driven, internally focused culture with its false certainties to a value-driven, customer-focused, agile culture. Given the choice, most people choose the status quo. Many people go kicking and screaming through the transformation. Some people or organizations won’t make the transition at all. Through our experiences in technology companies (IBM, Pitney Bowes, and others) adopting Agile, we have developed a set of proven tools to help organizational members at any level create a culture that embraces and fosters Agile methodologies and delivers products customers love. These tools lead to a culture of continuous innovation, transparency, trust, living with uncertainty, proactive risk management, and improved decision making.

Value Proposition
This book is a handbook on how to create, move to, and maintain a culture of energy and innovation. We cover

  • Creating a culture of trust.
  • Helping teams take ownership and not taking it away from them.
  • Aligning the goals of the teams with the business goals of the organization.
  • Dealing honestly with ambiguity and uncertainty.

We start by setting the stage in Chapter 1, Unleashing Talent, by discussing why we need to unleash the talent of everyone in the organization and why the combination of a culture of trust and everyone knowing and owning results is the foundation for innovation and motivation.

Then we turn to an in-depth discussion of the Trust-Ownership Model in Chapter 2, Trust and Ownership. In Chapter 3, Building Trust and Ownership, we look at how to create, maintain, and move to a culture of high trust/high ownership. This includes the need for business alignment and for dealing honestly with ambiguity and uncertainty. The tools you will need for trust and ownership are found in Chapter 4, Trust Tools, and Chapter 5, Ownership Tools. In Chapter 6, Business Alignment Tools, we cover tools to help you ensure your goals and the goals of the team are aligned with the goals of the business. Chapter 7, Dealing Honestly with Ambiguity, presents the tools to deal honestly with ambiguity and uncertainty.

It is not an easy transition. Many people don’t want to change. Many believe that if things are working effectively enough as they are, why should they do something differently? When this happens, we call it “hitting the wall”—a term we use to describe any obstacles and resistance you find to changing the culture. Where the walls might appear and what to do about them are covered in Chapter 8, Tools to Deal with Walls.

Metrics are important in assessing and driving progress, but metrics can be a wall if they work for the old culture but do not work for the new state. We dedicate Chapter 9, Metrics, to developing metrics for the optimal culture and discuss why they are important.

Finally, we provide an extensive case study in Chapter 10, Case Study, that covers all the principles in this book, helping you to see how you can use them in your organization. Because many of the tools have multiple uses in getting you to Energy and Innovation, Appendix A, Quick Reference Guide, is a quick reference highlighting which point (trust, ownership, alignment, or ambiguity) the tool applies to and in which chapter its use and description can be found. Appendixes B through E provide worksheets, processes, and metrics for helping you move in the right direction.

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