Saturday, July 18, 2015

Your Agile Mindset is Limited

We're Great - And You Are Not

In the book Tribal Leadership, David Logan speaks about 5 distinct cultural stages we see in organizations. 

  • Stage 1 - Life Sucks
  • Stage 2 - My Life Sucks
  • Stage 3 - I'm Great ... And You Are Not
  • Stage 4 - We're Great.... And You Are Not
  • Stage 5 - Life's Great

Stage 1 organizations are very uncommon and are only seen in prisons and criminal organizations.

David Logan points to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) as an example of workers working at a Stage 2 cultural level.

Approximately 50% of workplace culture operates at Stage 3.  Stage 3 culture sees competition amongst employees as means of increasing overall performance.  Many successful organizations operate at this cultural stage.  However, the Agile/Lean movements have shown how teams can out perform individuals.  

Many Agile teams and companies operate at Stage 4, but still identify it's greatness in comparison to other teams.  Agile teams within large corporations can be seen as religious zealots. You may here them speak about "how waterfall is foolish", or how other teams "just don't get it".  This cultural level is high-performing - but is still limited.   

Stage 5 cultures operate at a level of "Life is great".  There are a precious few organizations that fit this mold.  Zappos and Morning Star are often pointed to as examples of organizations operating at this level.    

We've had the good fortune of meeting Doug Kirkpatrick who was there in it's inception of Morning Star. Here is Doug's TED talk on his experience with Morning Star and how they have no bosses and are entirely self-managed.

In Fredric Laloux's book "Re-inventing Organizations" he describes 5 paradigms that directly relate to these 5 cultural stages:

  • Level 1 - Impulsive Red (Wolfpack)
  • Level 2 - Conformist Amber (Army)
  • Level 3 - Achievement Orange (The Machine)
  • Level 4 - Pluralistic Green (The Family)
  • Level 5 - Evolutionary Teal (Whole Living Organism)

The following video describes these paradigms, examples of organizations that apply them, and the impact of taking on each paradigm.

The easy conclusion is to aspire for your organization to be a "Level 5".  However, as David Logan points out in his book "Tribal Leadership"... "you can't skip a step". Upgrading your organizations existing culture means starting with where you are.

Someone in a Level 3 culture needs to be valued for their individual contributions before extending into a team.  As well, Level 4 cultures are a necessary stepping stone for most organizations, before considering a self-managed team. Lastly, Level 5 is not sustainable unless we have learned the language of Level 4. 

Regardless of where your organization is, it's important to speak the language of their current stage.  The book "Tribal Leadership" offers a great deal of examples and tools to help upgrade your organizations culture.  

Personally, I've been fortunate to get the support of others that have been through similar transitions and transformations.  Whether they are Scrum Masters, Agile Coaches or seasoned Executives, there is no shortage of people who are willing to share their passion for creating truly excellent organizations.  

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