Daniel Mezick suggests that the culture game is a game that we can win by introducing continuous training into our organisational culture. He believes that organisations need to learn fast to outflank their competitors. Teams that learn quickly are more adaptive and adaptability gets better results by responding to change.
So, in order to do this, Mezick suggests that we engage in a study of software development and engage in the agile practices used by them to their benefit.
Agile practices are those which enhance, encourage, and help support genuine team learning. There is a big demand to apply Agile techniques to non-technology domains like sales, marketing, finance and even leadership. The challenge is to take small-team learning behaviors of software developers and then apply them to the wider enterprise.
To build Agile practices requires adoption of appropriate frameworks which encourage group participation. Scrum is such a framework consisting of five elements.
- Element 1: Respect: Respect secures peer to peer appreciation and mutual understanding. Without Respect there is no meaningful positive communication.
- Element 2: Commitment: Commitment is the act tying ourselves to a course of action.
- Element 3: Focus: Focus is the concentration of attention to a purpose. If we cannot focus, we are not paying attention in a meaningful way.
- Element 4: Courage: Courage is the spirit to look reality in the eye. When there is no courage teams often feel unsafe to describe reality honestly in the workplace.
- Element 5: Openness: Openness is all about secret avoidance. No secrets, no surprises.
From here there are some essential practices used in tandem with these elements.
Mezick points out that it’s easy for us to maintain focus when we have a clear purpose. We need to do our best to commit to our purpose and ensure everyone else knows what the scope is. This gives us a benchmark for reality. Against this benchmark we can create goals and objectives, set values and principles and define actions to take.
Here is some of Mezick’s advice to establish purpose:
- Ask. Use all available forms of communication to get feedback.
- Listen. Create the space to enable discussion
- Meet. Hold some meetings and make sure you have a facilitator
- Keep It Light. Exploring a clearly defined purpose can sometimes cause some frustration.
- Play Games. This helps generate ideas, movement, and agreement.
- Keep it Short and Get It Done.
Examine Your Norms
The activities that we do together as a group matter. How we handle communication, brainstorming, meetings, email, and other interactions matter. Positive interactions support alignment with purpose, values, principles, and goals.
Therefore, we need to examine everything. This involves recognizing that we need to improve, and some of it may be interpreted as being personal. That’s why safe space is important. It shields us from getting too emotional about the old ways.
Mezick gives us a few ways we can begin to examone out norms.
- Identify. Identify an inspection point. Create opportunities to inspect what is going on.
- Group Think. Perform the inspection as a group.
- Contextualise. Engage in dialogue about the stories behind the norms.
- Brainstorm and Choose. Brainstorm and narrow down the discussion of changes to three or four ideas.
- Pick and Progress. Pick one and agree then monitor participation. In theory, after the decision everyone will have made a commitment to the new norm. Reaffirm consensus if needed.
Manage Your Boundaries
Fuzzy boundaries require constant negotiation. Clear boundaries do not. Agreed-upon boundaries create containment. Good boundaries are those expressed in time, expressed as tasks and expressed as physical territory.
Mezick says that when we are in development mode we should loosen boundaries to encourage discussion and dialogue. When seeking agreement we should tighten boundaries for tight definitions.
Essentially, without boundary management, every behavior is normal. Everything is up for negotiation. When good boundary management is in play, all energy can be focused on the work.