Book Review:The Culture Game

November 28, 2012

The Culture Game: Tools for the Agile Manager

What is a Culture Game? How does this relate agile management?

Dan Mezick’s perspective is that every 1-on-1 interaction, every meeting, and even an organization’s corporate culture are structured as a game. There’s an important key word in that last sentence. Dan isn't focusing on the objective of winning in The Culture Game, instead he’s asking us to examine the structure.

Consider how your work environment is structured and reflect on Dan’s assessment that, “Some of these games are well-structured, fun to play, and actually stimulate the pleasure regions of your brain. Good games frequently generate feelings of control, progress, optimism, and persistence. Games that are poorly structured generate feelings of frustration, lack of control, lack of progress, isolation, and despair.”

Agile development targets these key issues, and experienced agile practitioners routinely point out that agile is a cultural change (I've been blogging about organizational culture in my recent posts). Since the ground rules change with agile, and it is best that everyone understands those rules and knows what the goal is so that everyone is playing the same game.

The Culture Game provides an excellent blend of theory and actionable tools for you to use as you transition to agile. Case in point, I discussed Dan’s expansion of the Results Pyramid in my last post, which is a critical piece of theory to understand when introducing change because, as Dan states, “All learning is change, and all change is belief-change. …People who are always learning are constantly changing their models. They have become adept at responding and adjusting to new information and knowledge as it becomes available to them.”

Adopting Agile: Seeing is Believing

November 21, 2012

As Wikipedia states, “change management is an approach to shifting/transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state.” The challenge is that at both a personal and organizational level, people have underlying beliefs about what it takes to be successful. For change to stick, people must be open to new experiences and new ways of looking at things, to use these new experiences to explore their beliefs and to change what they believe.

Our beliefs are shaped from past experience, and this is where we all need to be talking as agile is introduced into organizations. Resistance is encountered because agile is (in many cases) asking people to try something new that goes against what they believe is necessary to succeed in the first place. A couple of quotes come to mind (I’m paraphrasing a couple of common ones that I’ve frequently heard):

“We can’t deliver software without performing thorough, rigorous planning up front.”

“We can’t design [the user interface, the architecture, the database] without understanding the full requirements up front.”

I’m sure that you can think of many others!

A Cultural Recipe for Agile Organizations

November 14, 2012

Lately I’ve been examining the subject of organizational culture through the lens of William Schneider’s four cultures that are covered in his book The Reengineering Alternative: A Plan for Making Your Current Culture Work. The four cultures are shown in a quadrant below:

Drilling a little deeper, the horizontal and vertical axes represent dividing lines:
  • What an organization pays attention to. The content. There are two content elements: Actuality and Possibility.

  • How an organization makes decisions. The process. There are two process elements: Impersonal and Personal.

Competency and Control Cultures: A More Challenging Agile Transformation

November 7, 2012

In my last post I discussed William Schneider’s take on Collaboration and Cultivation Cultures from his book The Reengineering Alternative: A Plan for Making Your Current Culture Work and how these two cultures fit more readily in an agile culture.

This post is Part Two, covering the Competency and Control cultures.