• Javier Perez Fernandez

A story about becoming aware of the culture

Have you ever asked yourself how to measure culture change? How do you know if your organization is becoming agile?

A client asked me to do a retrospective on how the agile transition was proceeding with a 60-person department, emphasizing cultural change. I knew that there was the prevalent opinion that actually nothing had changed since the beginning, but also that some people were very happy with the change.

I believed that people did not have a common understanding on what a successful agile transition could look like, which caused this discrepancy.

So my goal for the retrospective was for people to realise how the culture has developed/evolved since the transition had started, identifying with which culture (the current or the pre-transition one) the department seemed to have more success, so maybe some teams could be inspired by others.

I facilitated the retrospective using a Constellation with the Competing Values Framework (CVF), asking the people to think of a story that represented success or failure and placing themselves wherever they believed their story belonged in relation to the CVF. I chose this because I thought that it was an easy visual way for them to identify success patterns and start conversations around them.

It worked. It became visible that there was no coherence about what kind of culture to have in order to achieve the objectives. There were passionate conversations around which stories were successes and which were not, which triggered reflection on how they would like to be working. All of this informed the next actions to be piloted and the whole department knew what they were trying to achieve.

In short, the organization became aware of what the culture was like, how coherence it was, and what culture they mostly wanted.

What do you think? Have you ever experienced a culture that was inconsistent? What problems arose from this situation? Do you know of other ways to be aware of culture?