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How To Change A Culture Using Company Practices

Dev Processes
Company Culture
Team Processes

9 April, 2018

Derek Hollis
Derek Hollis

iOS Engineering Manager at Slack

Derek Hollis talks about how company processes and company culture are interrelated, and how processes can be used to shift company culture.

Problem

When I was working for Bank of America, they had a completely waterfall-based software development lifecycle. They wanted to move towards an Agile approach, but didn't know where to start. I'd gone through an Agile transformation at a previous company, and had found that forcing people to change quickly resulted in a huge amount of pushback.

Actions taken

Your company's practices inform your culture, and its culture informs your practices. Because of this, if you want to make changes to your company's culture, you should focus on making incremental steps in terms of your practices, as this will inform your culture. I took the same software development cycle of waterfall, and still had requirements and design upfront, but changed the development and testing process in the middle. By taking a small incremental step when changing your practices, such as starting Sprints in your development stage, you're more likely to get an incremental change in your company's culture. When making incremental changes, pick one small project at a time and view it as an experiment. Make sure you talk through lessons learned and retrospects, so you can learn from any mistakes made and make sure your team feels comfortable with changes.

Lessons learned

When you do an Agile transformation, you want to clear the runway, and you need leadership support. Introducing something small increases the likelihood of the company accepting change and not pushing back. If you make it too big of a change, too quickly, you'll get a huge amount of pushback from people who are scared or confused by the changes.

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