Just a small observation I made during AWS Transformation Day. While the entire theme for the event was on transforming business, the schedule had one track for “Culture and Organizational Change” alone. While Culture and Organizational Change is a broad and huge topic, but it is necessary and makes the difference for agility in rapidly changing and competitive markets. Amazon has been talking about this for years and they share their knowledge with their partners.
On an attempt to find out how organizations actually master this, the perspective most consultants and companies I talked to during the event shared with me was rather sobering. Anyone exhibiting at that event merely offered to run any software project under an agile management. No support, consultancy or even efforts to drive actual change, whatsoever, at least nothing that would exceed a traditional software project scope.
Cultural and Organizational Change is something requiring executive buy in and is killed quickly by means of exhaustive efforts to plan ahead. Culture needs to embrace the possibility to change quickly, throughout the process. And the wish for management is human, to have transparency and perspective early in the process, it is just as natural in the process for developers to stay vague for items that are not yet clear.
Any cultural change needs to embrace bi-directual communication and the ability to break down complex. On first thought this sounds easy, but requires plenty of cooperation and trust in a clearly defined team. Culture is rooted in clear understanding of roles, responsibilities and not to mention last, trust of all members.
“Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast” is a quote that is often attributed to Peter F. Drucker, but was apparently coined by Ford’s Mark Fields. Whoever said it, both have plenty of business acumen to take some credit for the thought behind it. There statement has lot of truth in it, looking into corporate structures.
With the arrival of digitalisation it is more true than ever before. All verticals struggle with fundamentally changing markets, forcing them to innovate in technology and services, and strive for new business models. In this environment it is crucial to embrace change, which enterprise culture often outright rejects.
Change Management has been a topic in management and HR for many years, and never has been so fundamental to organisational success as it is nowadays. Technology is converging at a breathtaking pace. The Internet of Things, as an example, requires electrical & mechanical engineers to cooperate with computer scientists and data analysts to produce a product a usability engineer designed jointly with a designer. Fundamentally different schools of though define the success of a product, and even consumer and enterprise grade of products converge in their appearance.
At the same time, the technologic ecosystem has outgrown individual organisations capabilities. Partnerships with technology vendors require management while intellectual property needs defence at the same time.
Organisations develop anti-patterns like “Silo Thinking” or “Not invented here” syndrome. While these cultural behaviours are tolerable in less dynamic situations, their effect can quickly go out of bounds and create a substantial counterforce to any change infused through external factors.
Embracing an open ecosystem and building on technologies developed outside the own organisation are fundamental to innovation. This open mindset is a prerequisite for any change into agility. Any strategy aiming for change ignoring these behaviours will be eaten by this exact culture. For breakfast.
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