Friday, January 20, 2006

Congruence between practices and culture

Two bits that I came across in my reading this week are sticking together in my head.


In his post, Imitation is the Saddest Form of Flattery, Pragmatic Dave talks about other publishers imitating what they do at the Pragmatic Bookshelf.




Andy and I have tried to think differently about publishing. We came to it knowing nothing about the industry. We did, however, know how to make projects work. So we took what we knew and applied the principles, if not the practices, to what we did.


Now other publishers are copying some of their innovations.


Dave continues:

… surface-level imitation is flattering, but ultimately it’s unlikely to succeed. Behind the stuff that you see us doing, there’s an underlying philosophy and set of practices. They all reinforce each other.



Then I came across this in an old entry in my journal the other day (Aren’t journals wonderful?):

Your beliefs become your thoughts.

Your thoughts become your words.

Your words become your actions.

Your actions become your habits.

Your habits become your values.

Your values become your destiny.


Mahatma Gandhi

(I’ve seen several variations on this quote. I came across this one in a workshop.)


Here’s how these two pieces are connected for me:


A while back, I talked to a group that implemented the workflow of Scrum. The applied some of the visibility practices.


The teams aren’t self-organizing or applying inspect-and-adapt practices that work with, and reinforce the workflow part of Scrum. They’re missing some of the practices I associate with Agile software development.


And, practices are built on principles. Principles are an expression of beliefs and values, as is corporate culture.


From what I’ve gleaned, many of practices this company isn’t doing rest on values that are outside of the dominant culture of the company.


It doesn’t make sense to transfer practices without examining fit. Some practices may transfer well within the existing culture and others won’t. The reinforcing effect that a set of practices have won't be there.


And the effort, energy, and time involved in changing culture isn’t trivial. The benefits of a new practice may not outweigh the cost of culture change. (This assumes that existing practices are achieving acceptable ROI for the company—which in many cases of top-down, mandated adoption of Agile methods seems not to be the case.)


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