Rowan Bunning presents on how culture is shaping your Agile

by Brendon Livingstone on 01/12/2017 09:30

Rowan Bunning presents on how culture is shaping your Agile

Agile adoption, and the values that underlie Agile, are often at odds with the prevailing culture within organisations. As such, the culture of the organisation where Agile is adopted, shapes the Agile adoption and its success.

Our Sydney-based Certified Scrum Trainer Rowan Bunning is back in New Zealand at the moment delivering Certified ScrumMaster and Certified Scrum Product Owner training. Rowan has been working in Agile projects since 2001 and he regularly presents at Agile conferences around the world. So on Wednesday evening we hosted Rowan at Equinox IT to present to IT executives on the topic of 'How your culture is shaping your Agile'.

Why is your organisation pursuing Agile?

Rowan kicked off the presentation by polling the audience on the question 'why is your organisation pursuing Agile?'. The highest voted results included 'to deliver value faster', 'to deliver better business outcomes', 'more business interaction', and 'to better support our customers'.


Rowan indicated that the intent of Agile is not to deliver faster, but to be more nimble and adaptable to change. For example, not like a high speed train that can travel fast but can't change track and more like a kangaroo that can change direction rapidly.

high speed train less agile than a kangaroo

Frédéric Laloux's organisation models

Rowan introduced Frédéric Laloux's organisation models, based on the organisation's 'level of consciousness' from Laloux's book Reinventing Organizations:

  • Red organisations - power and fear based, e.g. gangs
  • Amber organisations - formal hierarchies, command and control, e.g. army and government
  • Orange organistions - profit and growth, innovation and meritocracy, e.g. companies
  • Green organisations - relationships ahead of outcomes, delight customers, e.g. Southwest Airlines
  • Teal organisations - self management, e.g. Morning Star or Patagonia.

Most organisations we see in New Zealand and Australia are Amber or Orange.

Organisations that are Green or Teal have cultures that more naturally align to Agile values.

Rowan Bunning presents Frederic Laloux's organisational models

Introducing Agile into Amber organisations

Amber organisations' values are inclined to oppose those of Agile values. Rowan presented the Agile Manifesto and its values and showed how Amber organisations' values contrasted.

Amber organisations are likely to insist on prediction of the unpredictable.

In Amber organisations Agile projects normally exist in a culture bubble, protected by a leader who supports the approach. But, the bubble can be quickly destroyed if that leader is temporarily or permanently replaced.

Introducing Agile into Orange organisations

Orange organisations feel obligated to follow the Agile fad. Often Orange organisations want faster delivery but do not really want agility. Agile is often positioned as a delivery tool.

Approaches such as Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) fit neatly into Amber and Orange organisations because these approaches retain the status quo structure and mindset rather than offering to transcend it.

Amber and Orange organisations tend to take a project view rather than a customer view. SAFe is optimised around programme execution rather than around agility.

This often leads to approaches such as Water-Scrum-Fall, where Agile is wrappered within traditional organisational ways of working.

Rowan Bunning talking about Water-Scrum-Fall

Transitioning to Green organisations

Green organisations focus on delighting customers, on eliminating formal constraints and on servant leadership models. Green organisations normally have high performing cross-functional teams. You will note here that there is much higher alignment with the ways and approaches we see in Agile.

Orange vs Green executive stories

Explore why your organisation is adopting Agile. Making it about the customer rather than about project delivery or speed of delivery is more consistent with a Green organisation mindset.

Rowan's slides from the presentation are available here.

Many thanks to Rowan for once again spending time with us in New Zealand delivering his Scrum training courses and for this insightful presentation on a very important topic.


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