In one of my posts, I shared with you my thoughts and experience with agile teams and the significant advantages that these groups can bring to small and large organisations, such as Vodafone. Indeed, working with an agile mentality helps to promote innovative thinking and create new things. But, an adequate environment is also necessary to serve as a breeding ground for this type of philosophy.

In human resources, we know that, in spite of how much we want to change many things, there is something that is above all: it is the organisational culture. It doesn’t matter how many changes we want to carry out or what strategy we devise. If there is no change in the culture that enables this transformation, nothing will happen. As Peter Drucker reminds us: ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’.

First, the culture at work must be collaborative. People should feel comfortable working with each other, helping each other and not competing against their colleagues. Here the ‘ultimate-stars’ who work alone are not useful; it is the team, that is equally responsible for the product in which they collaborate, who is going to be key. Each member should have ownership, and their contribution cannot be limited to their work but should strive to understand how their participation fits with the rest.

Noteworthy as well is allowing errors. A culture that punishes and stigmatises error cannot work with agile methodologies. These practices need a lot of flexibility to make mistakes, to change functionality, design, even the vision of what you want to achieve, and —the most obvious reason— to work from anywhere. A hierarchical and culture of controls will not be congruent with this type of practice. In the same way, total transparency is essential to understand the current status of the project and, to perceive clearly that all team members are making valuable contributions.

And as for the style of leadership that is needed, I believe that the role of the manager should transform into a coach. If each member is responsible for everything, it is the team who will make the decisions and will define the tasks needed to accomplish the objective. The new manager will be accountable for helping the team to surpass its qualities in the best way possible.

I am aware that all this can be infinitely easier to say than to carry it out, but I believe that by making small efforts, significant advances can be made. In the end, the working culture associated with agile practices should be, as its name in Spanish indicates, ágil, which means fast and easy, eliminating barriers. But before taking this journey, it is essential to understand the culture that currently exists within the company and where we want to go. Does such a transformation bring significant value to your business? Or can we create our own version of agile? These are questions that are worth thinking.