Culture Change: A new viewpoint

I read an idea about culture change that is different.

“if you need to change an entire culture, here’s a tip: don’t be too idealistic about human nature.”

The article, in the Sunday 23 Boston Globe ( posits that people don’t change because you appeal to their better side, or that you convincingly show them a more effective way of working or being. They respond because they believe that everyone else is doing it, and that they are out of step. The article says,

“What researchers have found is that … to really change how a group of people thinks and behaves, it turns out, you don’t need to change what’s inside of them, or appeal to their inner sense of virtue. You just have to convince them that everybody else is doing it.”

” There is something a bit circular about the idea that we change people’s behavior by tweaking their perceptions about the behavior of others. It’s a self-reinforcing process: the more people believe that smoking is atypical, for instance, the less typical it becomes, which in turn provides more evidence.”

We have the numbers:
1. 80% of all organizations say they are using agile techniques.
2. 82% of these organizations are using Scrum, among other agile techniques.
3. Most job posting for IT management and developers require a knowledge of agile techniques (we need some statistics on this).

Who would have thought this.


13 thoughts on “Culture Change: A new viewpoint

  1. Hi Ken!

    Point 3 above is easy to analyse.- I just ran a couiple of queries on which is probably the most ubiquitous IT job board in the UK:

    “developer” = 4,453 job adverts
    “developer AND agile” = 1,205 job adverts
    “developer AND scrum” = 407 job adverts
    “developer AND scrum AND agile” = 387 job adverts

    This seems to indicate that there are 818 agile jobs that don’t mention scrum, and 407 that do. 10 jobs mention scrum, but not agile. So about 2/3 of agile job ads are not for Scrum.

    Only 27% of developer jobs specify agile of scrum.

    Of course, this is for the UK. Perhaps we are behind the USA in agile uptake?

    Has anyone got any figures for the USA? (And what about Australia, Canada, Germany etc.?)

    Brian Wernham
    Author of “Agile Project Management for Government” published by Maitland and Strong 2012

    • Don’t read too much into the numbers you submit. Hardly anyone of those advertisers will know the difference between agile (whatever that is) and Scrum (even many who want Scrum and agile). It’ll be interesting to see the corresponding numbers for XP, DSDM and FDD. I don’t think it’ll all add upto even 80% of the ‘agile’ jobs.
      Online recruitment is dreadfully keyword driven and frightfully impersonal. More keywords the better everyone seems to feel.

  2. A herd instinct? Quite possible.
    But… I would still hope for people to consider carefully the why of moving to Scrum, and not just do it because the rest is doing it too. The intrinsic motivators are quite worthwhile to pass on to them.

  3. That is actually quite a sad finding… For all that we praise ourselves to be rational animals it turns out we’re not rational at all, we just follow the crowd. You may present good, empirical data that shows the benefit of an alternative, and people will stubbornly continue to resist change.

  4. I agree it’s rather a sad finding. We can’t however ignore that people want to keep up with the Joneses. IMHO it would be wrong to use it as a real argument for transforming to scrum. It can however be a guerilla marketing argument to get people in to taking the first steps to ‘do’ scrum. Being agile is the end goal which can’t be achieved overnight. “I do, therefor I am” does not comply to agile methods.

  5. I don’t think it’s a sad finding at all. It’s a joyous one. We are not rational machines. Computers are. We are insanely complicated pattern matchers with an intuitive understanding of complex adaptive systems (social dynamics). That’s why we can do so much more than can the stupid computers we program.

    Sure, we’re vulnerable to a couple of hacks. But being purely rational only increases the number of hacks that work – while decreasing the system’s ability to detect when it has been hacked. I’d rather be capable of common wisdom (that being the result of our pattern matching) than be rational.

    OK, I’d really rather be both, but more on the wisdom & experience side than the rationality.

  6. While I prefer to convince people that a change is better for specific reasons and have them accept it as a rational thinking individual, I have had to use this herd following mentality to enact change in teams. Recently I had to do this to improve how a team recorded, tracked and reported testing activities. It was a black box that nobody knew the real cost associated with testing releases. I could not get the lead QC member to understand that better visibility into testing would help the team improve and provide better support for the high QC work load. I would always get statements like “I think what we are doing is fine it has always worked. But if the team wants to do it differently, I will be happy to do it”. I then turned to specific team members that I knew would see the impact of the change I was suggesting. Getting their buy in was the catalyst for getting the lead QC member to follow along with the team. The team now has better visibility into the state of release testing each sprint and is building a history for better cost understanding.

  7. Iterations are about learning. “Herd” mentality might be considered vicarious learning, perhaps less risky than accepting someone else’s reported experience on a forum or blog because the number of experiences from which we choose to learn is greater.

  8. Pingback: The new normal of the modern application lifecycle

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