Dr. Nathan Hurwitz is a tenured Associate Professor in Theatre and has three books in print, two textbooks and a coffee table book.
Assessing an Organization's Culture
Cultures of business organizations are unique, and trying to define them is like trying to explain what differentiates snowflakes. However, there are some key markers to use when defining organizational culture. The following questions can lead to accurate mapping of organizational culture:
- Are goals and strategies clearly defined?
- Is there a clearly defined decision-making process?
- Open lines of communication?
- Do employees find meaning or purpose in their work?
- Are there opportunities to learn and grow?
- Is everyone held responsible and accountable?
- Are employees engaged in their work?
- Do people collaborate and work in teams or isolation?
- Is there rigidity or do plans adapt to circumstances?
- Is the tone of the office one of trust and integrity?
- Does the workplace engender a sense of respect and fairness?
Agile teams first appeared in the software industry. But the concept of fostering creative, collaborative teamwork that could adapt to any and all changes during the process quickly became a sought-after business model across industries. Google, Netflix, and Über are the kind of exciting new agile organizations of today. By emulating them, businesses in all sectors are shifting to the agile model.
An agile team is a creative entity, or a collaborative problem-solving organism. Individual teams are tasked with projects and encouraged to develop creative solutions in new, unique, and individualized ways. Projects, departments, and even whole divisions work with an agile model. But full-organizational agility has become highly prized. More than anything else, full-organizational agility is a culture, and the shift into an agile environment requires a cultural shift.
How to 'Evangelize' the Change to an Agile Environment
There are five basic tenants to agile culture. Each one of these is particularly appealing, but they are even stronger when used in combination.
- People Take Priority Over Process - Companies like Zappos and Spotify encourage employees to self-organize, which leads to groups that pop up around different topics like objectives, work environment, skillsets, interests, and so on.
- Dynamics Rather Than Documents - Slavishly following documented procedures is a hindrance in an agile environment. The agility culture demands collaboration. This means shorter but more intense work periods instead of traditional, proscribed methodologies.
- Collaboration Rather Than Cascading - Collaboration in the agile environment creates a lack of ownership. Each idea or project is 'ours,' rather than 'mine.' Because of this, the culture is inherently more trusting, communicative, and adaptive.
- Adaptive Rather Than Prescriptive - Agile culture asks that people change, try new approaches, and constantly adapt to any new information that arises. This culture has little room for reasons why something can't happen and instead urges thought about how it can happen. It asks, 'How can we do this?' rather than, 'Why can't we do this?'
- Leadership Rather Than Management - The job of executives and managers in full-organizational agile cultures is to enable those working under them and facilitate their employees' needs. Frequently, this means posing the problems that need to be solved and allowing their subordinates and teams to figure out how to solve them.
Common Organizational Challenges
While it is easy to see why an organizational agile environment is attractive, transformation to this paradigm has its challenges. There are a few common challenges to this kind of organizational transformation.
Traditional organizations depend on functional thinking, in which employees are sectioned off into areas of specialized competency. This offers specialists in each niche and an easy way to measure performance. Unfortunately, such singularity of thinking also makes it easy to lose sight of ultimate goals. It also too often results in looking to place the blame when something fails rather than using the failure as a valuable learning tool. Moving managers and employees to a cross-functional thinking process can be difficult, particularly for those entrenched in old habits.
Enterprises that have operated successfully under traditional models may meet with resistance to such substantial change. Some key steps will relieve much of this resistance. For instance, total transparency is vital. An employee who fears change and discovers a secret or misrepresentation of the facts will believe that their fears are founded. Also, keep everyone updated and in the loop. Having said this, be careful about a surfeit of communication, which can cause people to miss vital information in a sea of communications. If the central figures of resistance can be leveraged, the other resisters will join them.
Fear of Failure
Organizational agility requires speed so that decisions are quickly made. Traditional corporate culture fears failure; agile culture embraces it as a learning tool. Traditional organizations foster an aversion to risk, rather than an attraction to it. This speed is a big shift for many to make. Only by living through several failures and seeing them used in this way will make employees realize that there is no one hovering, waiting to place blame.
Defining organizational culture begins with assessing the goals, employees, and workflow of an organization. Full-organizational agility is a culture, and the shift into an agile environment requires a cultural shift. The five basic tenants to agile culture are each appealing, but in combination, they make it easy to evangelize. They are:
- People Take Priority Over Process
- Dynamics Rather Than Documents
- Collaboration Rather Than Cascading
- Adaptive Rather Than Prescriptive
- Leadership Rather Than Management
Some common challenges to organizational transformation are operational silos, organizational-level resistance, and fear of failure.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack