What does cultural agility look like?

birdsinnovationTo borrow from Oprah, there is one thing I know for sure.

Low Trust = More Process. Process kills Autonomy. Autonomy = Innovation

Innovation is the life blood of any organization that wants to exist more than 15 years, the average age of a company today. And real innovation requires cultural agility. I recently published a blog on the difference between enterprise agile versus scaled Agile which helped me form my thoughts that business agility is founded in cultural agility. When I published the blog, someone then asked me to describe an organization with cultural agility.

Here’s my vision of cultural agility:

There are no org charts. A learning organization scales in harmony with the value that is produced through autonomous teams. They put all their good people on the things that are producing the highest value. Doing great stuff? Do more of it.

There are no pet projects. A lean organization puts feedback first, and always celebrates truth. They relentlessly kill waste. They kill products no matter how far they are in development when they no longer make sense. They experiment, experiment, experiment. Doing smart stuff? Do more of it.

There are no RACI charts. A agile organization embraces autonomy. That means empowerment and self-organization. Agile thinking produces innovation, along with excitement, rapid development, and customer delight. It creates trust, because you are getting things done. It rewards outcomes, not data. Know what needs to be done? Nothing should stop you.

At the September 2016 Tampa Bay Tech Forum Peter Slade from Nitro Solutions described creating a culture of innovation. To paraphrase: “Innovation doesn’t happen just between 9 and 5.” They start by recruiting for passion, not just skills, and rewarding people accordingly. He went on to describe their working environment, their progressive leave policies (there isn’t one), and a belief that magic happens when people are colocated. Spotify has a similar culture. You can read HighFive’s blog on Spotify’s focus on Autonomy and Cross-Pollination.

What are they doing right? I tie it directly to Joshua Kerievsky’s Modern Agile principles: “Make people awesome. Make safety a prerequisite.Experiment and learn rapidly. Deliver value continuously.”

We may see technology companies ahead in the cultural agility curve, but this is not just for technology companies. I experienced the highly collaborative culture at Carfax, who declares: “No Jerks Allowed!” Hands down, Carfax is one of the best organizations I have worked with who truly honored their culture in their business decisions.

Zappo’s culture book highlights this submission: “it’s really a way of life now, more than anything else. It’s doing the right thing. It’s believing in people. It’s helping each other out. It’s ideas … so many ideas! It’s inspiration. It’s follow-through. It’s family. It’s really the basis of making anywhere feel like home.”

Here’s the challenge: Bring culture to the forefront of your investment in time, money, and talent. There are no more excuses.

Want to change? Start now.

~Julee Bellomo

Live your truth; hone your craft; show your thanks


One thought on “What does cultural agility look like?”

  1. I really like this post. I agree that low trust kills innovation. It stifles creativity and inhibits idea sharing which lead to better solutions.

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