How to manage culture transformation

Agile Frameworks like SAFe are primarily used to improve time-to-market, to cope with fast changing market requirements and to increase efficiency, however its impact on culture slips under the radar. Download Checklist!

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) comes in many flavours. In its most basic configuration, Essential SAFe, the two core competencies Lean-Agile-Leadership and Team & Technical Agility elaborate the aspect of culture.

  • Lean-Agile-Leadership clearly describes the roles of executives in the agile transformation journey and highlights their function as a role model for all other employees.
  • Team & Technical Agility is the cornerstone for the entire organisation to become agile.

Agile Teams with cross-functional expertise heavily rely on values like commitment, focus, openness, courage and respect as described in the Scrum guide and provide guidance on behaviour through the description of events like planning, iteration, dailies and retrospectives. What impact does this have in real life?

The good & quick wins: According to the 13th Agile Report increased team morale is one of 4 top benefits of applying SAFe, while it only ranks as the top 9 reason why companies initially decide to introduce SAFe. According to our experience small steps can already make a big change like regular feedback polls using tools like Mentimeter - asking I like, I wish - or dailies according to a script – what did I do yesterday, what will I do today, what is an impediment, what have I learned.

The difficult & culture journey: Changing a company culture with massive paradigm shifts like servant leadership and employee empowerment does not happen overnight, especially in a corporate context with heritage. Here is a statement from MIT’s John P. Kotter: “The world is now changing at a rate at which the basic systems, structure, and cultures built over the past century cannot keep up with the demands being placed on them.“ The former COO of ING Netherlands underlines the importance of dealing with company culture during an agile transformation: “Culture is perhaps the most important element of this sort of change effort. We have spent an enormous amount of energy and leadership time trying to role model the sort of behaviour – ownership, empowerment, customer centricity – that is appropriate in an agile culture.”

While setting up dailies and collecting feedback is valuable, we do acknowledge that agile transformation is a journey with respect to culture. With our experience in cultural transformation programs we help you in setting up a cultural transformation journey that helps you identify your current culture, design your future culture and subsequently transform your entire company.

We are aware that no two companies are alike, and that a culture journey ought to cater to the idiosyncrasies and particularities of their business. However, we do see patterns and recommend best-practices that you will find in our checklist.

If you want to know more about how to transform your organisation into a digital and agile organisation, contact us!

You can find more information about our Digital Transformation services here.

*Sources: Scaled Agile Inc., 13th Annual State of Agile Report, McKinsey&Company: Leading agile transformation, XLR8 by John P. Kotter, mm1 Research