Culture change is difficult in any organization. There's a reason why the average culture change movement can take years to fully take hold. This slow movement is especially obvious in a world of instant gratification, and is beginning to challenge the slow-moving strategies of people practices.
The Agile Methodology has become popularized after planting its roots in the 1970's in software development. The continuous improvement manifesto is something that can be translated into change management initiatives across industries, initiatives, and teams. The basis of Agile Methodology is that teams work collaboratively to implement a solution. Once the solution is live, they use real-time feedback to continuously and flexibly adapt their solution to be the best version possible.
Agile movement is significantly harder to implement when you talk about culture change, because, naturally, people are resistant to any type of change. Fear of change is a human reaction that takes a significant amount of self-awareness and emotional intelligence to overcome. And not everyone is self-aware of their emotional triggers, so change may simply create frustration or confusion for many people. Each of us, as humans, are comparable to these agile development solutions: We never deliver perfection on the first attempt, and we constantly need to change ourselves to adapt as we grow and mature.
So how do you merge the natural human state of change, the fear of that change, and the natural static state of organizational processes? By using the three-step Agile Culture Change Methodology, companies can discover how they can realize the gap areas they need to resolve, begin movement, and then maintain continuous innovation and growth.
Step 1: Unfreeze the Negativity
The first step of the process is the longest, most difficult, and most frustrating. Unfreezing a culture rooted in negativity and entitlement can take a significant amount of emotional energy. Always remember that humans only have a certain amount emotional energy in their tank, and unfreezing negativity can consume it quickly. Make sure that if you are attempting to begin this process at your organization, you have balance in other areas of your life to fill your depleting emotional energy tank.
Unfreezing negativity starts with a gap analysis to understand cultural shortcomings. Culture is each person's collection of experiences, from the time you start interviewing to the time you leave the company. Each moment or experience will define how each employee interprets the culture of your company. It will be different for everyone... and that difference of opinion is okay and human.
Interview employees at your company. Ask them to tell you about their five most influential (positive or negative) experiences since they first started interacting with your organization. Collect, organize, and analyze the data that you are gaining from your conversations. What parts of your culture feel the best to your employees? Which have the largest gap areas?
Step 2: Moving Towards Agile Change
Once the largest cultural gap areas have been identified, define the current cultural baseline statistically with data from your interviews. Engage with Senior Leadership, if you haven't already. Define how culture change would change that baseline, and what measurement would define success. Starting with data helps take the "squishy" parts out of the culture change conversation and can help determine Return on Investment (ROI) measurements in the future.
Then, find like-minded change agents that are passionate about helping close certain gap areas. Use these internal culture champions to collaboratively define action plans and/or create social grassroots buzz around the projected culture change. Revisit action plans bi-weekly or monthly to discuss how the culture team can be flexible to continually adapt their plan for greater success and adoption. Plans will probably have to change multiple times before culture movement finds the right pathway for success.
Step 3: Refreeze Agile Movement
Celebrate successes as they occur in your organization's culture change movement. However, remember that success isn't a single finish line in our natural human state. Instead, it means continually growing, improving, and adapting that finish line to be better than the last one. Our organizations need to reflect the natural human tendency to mature, and adopt agile movement as a norm within our business models. Every company requires change to stay relevant, profitable and successful.
Find the best way to refreeze your organization in an agile mindset. Define a new cultural norm that change is expected, celebrated, and albeit sometimes scary, rather necessary. Creating a change-minded workforce in an organization will promote innovation in practices, employees that are genuinely invested in the company’s mission, and more fluid and adaptable success for the bottom line.