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3 September 2013

An Agile Adoption and Transformation Survival Guide by Michael Sahota

This afternoon I read Michael Sahota's book An Agile Adoption and Transformation Survival Guide: Working With Organizational Culture (which you can download from here.)

It's short and I read through it in about an hour. In it Michael addresses the context teams at work operate in; organisational culture. The premise is that agile adoptions are a dead end unless you tap into the cultural context.

There is an opening discussion that addresses the Do Agile v Be Agile paradigm, acknowledging the agile community discussions which have gone before, and then settling in with the fundamental premise of the book; most people want to do agile and don't want to be agile.

Culture change is hard, and often those in power don't want to pay the cost. Often in fact, it isn't needed. And when your client only wants agile practices you get a whole range of options to play with that are useful, valuable, and worthy. But not as hard.

Michael applies a model which looks at culture across two dimensions; people v company orientation and reality v possibility orientation. By understanding where you client is, you are better able to talk about where they want to go.

Is your culture agile?
Even better, you have Kanban and Software Craftmanship to address cultures that aren't ready to adopt an agile spirit.

I am familiar with culture change programs, and with working in a team culture in conflict with organisational culture, and I don't think culture change is impossible. I do think it takes a concerted effort though, and you'll need to try a few things out before you really find the right path.

Michael seems to come to the conclusion that usually it's a waste of time to try to shift culture, but practices that suit the dominant culture can be found, and applied in useful ways. I'm not sold on this, but I understand it, so to that end, I find this book a step on a communal journey rather than a final statement on culture change for agile teams and consultants.

It is easy to read, the ideas are presented in simple and accessible ways, and it is a very worthy topic. If you are in the business of change at any scale I highly recommend you invest a few mouse clicks and some reading time.