Culture ChangeThe culture change conversation seems to have cropped up again a number of times lately. It always makes me cringe a bit as agile adoptions should not be focused on changing culture. That is not our goal. Our goal is to do purposeful work that enhances the business; and to leverage the strengths, passions and diversities of the people doing that work.


Culture is often seen as impermeable. "That's our culture. It's just what we do". Really? We should rethink that. Culture did not come with the building. When your organization moved into the building, the facilities manager did not go to the local organizational culture store, peruse all the organizational culture modules on the shelves, select a nice one, then come back to the building and plug it in to the organizational culture port. Culture is the culmination of choices. Choices made by the people currently in our organizations, and the people that came before them. If past choices seem counter to our today's wishes, we simply need to start making different choices. One choice, one situation, one day at a time. It's incremental. It's evolutionary.

That gets us to specific behaviors, and if agility is about anything it is about behavior. We want teams to behave in collaborative ways that build trust and credibility. We want business owners to behave in ways promote clarity of both short-term and long-term needs. We want leaders to behave in ways that invigorate engagement and participation. When that is not happening our focus should be on specifics. In these situations, we want someone to do less of this, and do more of that. It's incremental. It's evolutionary. It's how we take small steps that add up to bigger gains. Think Margaret Mead -- "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

We have a "command-and-control" culture. Really? That's a management style, and managers can learn to ask more questions, take in more perspectives, work more toward consensus, respect other opinions, seek hidden talents, build partnerships -- one manager, one situation, one day at a time. It's incremental. It's evolutionary.

We have a "get it done" culture. We can't plan or prioritize anything. Really? Isn't that a disconnect in understanding and execution of strategy? Can we really not make reasoned decisions about what is important today? Can we really not find ways to say "not now" to requests that align more with personal agendas than organizational strategy? Can we really not learn to work in ways that allow the rigors of being in a competitive business to change what we think is important for tomorrow and beyond? One choice, one situation, one day at a time. It's incremental. It's evolutionary.

We have a "collaborative culture". Really? Doesn't that mean we have a group of people that over time have found value in understanding and working toward common goals? That's not permanent; it did not come with the building. It took hard work to achieve, and it will take hard work to maintain. It takes individuals choosing every day to be open; to be transparent; to seek and offer help. One person, one situation, one day at a time. It's incremental. It's evolutionary.

Let's not get lost in the quagmire of culture and culture change. It's the proverbial bottomless pit. It should not be the focus of our improvement efforts. Instead let's focus on the culmination of our successes and disappointments in facing today's challenges in an on-going effort to make tomorrow better. Instead let's recognize culture as the measurement of our endeavors and when that measurement disappoints, let's find one situation we can change. Let's take one step toward improvement. It's incremental. It's evolutionary. That's how the world changes.