Moving from Waterfall to Agile requires an organizational culture transformation in most companies. This chapter delves into the impacts as well as examples of both successful and unsuccessful ways to handle the culture change. First we understand what organizational culture is and how it influences an organization. Then we look through the eyes of three positions in a company to see how Agile changes the way common situations and challenges are addressed.
What Is Organizational Culture, and Why Does It Matter?
Before we dive into the specific impacts of Agile, let’s discuss corporate culture. According to Philip Atkinson, corporate culture “is the infrastructure, the glue that binds together people and processes to generate results . . . The culture should become the major force that propels the organization onward” (Atkinson 2012).
How important is the organizational culture in a company’s ability to adopt Agile? Critical. In fact, in the VersionOne annual survey of “The State of Agile Development,” they found that culture change is the primary barrier to further Agile adoption at companies (VersionOne 2013, p. 9).
Why is it so hard to change a culture? An organization’s culture was not built overnight; it is the accumulation of years of interactions and experiences that have formed into a belief system of how work progresses and how decisions are made. To shift the culture, one must create new experiences and reward those who dare to embrace the new and unfamiliar. The organization must be prepared to examine its old practices with a critical eye and try a new way of doing things. When the new experiences are difficult or uncomfortable, it is common to revert to old habits. Driving true culture change, which Agile requires, needs commitment and nurturing from all levels of the organization.