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Vernon Richards | Quality Coach

Vernon Richards | Quality Coach

January 17, 2022

Collaboration is more than ceremonies

I've been a member of one agile team or another since 2006. I've noticed that organisations can get the impression that if they follow "the process", everyone starts acting like a team, and all businesses problems evaporate into thin air.

If only it were that easy!

I've come across two different models that may explain why collaboration is more challenging than just following the Scrum Guide (or any other agile approach for that matter). They are:

  • The Influencer Model (or The Six Sources of Influence) - Grenny, Patterson, Maxfield, McMillan, Switzler.

  • Westrum's Typology of Organisational Culture - Professor Ron Westrum.

The Influencer Model

The model describes six sources of influence: motivation and ability and subdomains called personal, social and structural. The authors describe the six subdomains as:

  1. Make the Undesirable Desirable

  2. Surpass Your Limits

  3. Harness Peer Pressure

  4. Find Strength in Numbers

  5. Design Rewards and Demand Accountability

  6. Change the Environment

Or as I would say:

  1. Help people understand what's in it for them

  2. Give people the skills needed to adopt the new behaviour

  3. Start with the opinion leaders in the group

  4. Make it a problem for the group, not an individual within it

  5. Don't reward the old behaviour

  6. Make it easy for people to work in the new style

If we don't help people understand the situation and how it benefits them, and if they cannot adapt because they lack the skills or "the system" prevents them, change is unlikely.

Westrum's Typology of Organisational Culture

The model describes three different. Here's how they're presented in the Accelerate book (by Dr Nicole Forsgren et al. ):

  • Pathological (Power-Oriented)

    • Low cooperation

    • Messengers "shot"

    • Responsibilities shirked

    • Bridging discouraged

    • Failure leads to scapegoating

    • Novelty crushed

  • Bureaucratic (Rule-Oriented)

    • Modest cooperation

    • Messengers neglected

    • Narrow responsibilities

    • Bridging tolerated

    • Failure leads to justice

    • Novelty leads to problems

  • Generative (Performance-Oriented)

    • High cooperation

    • Messengers trained

    • Risks are shared

    • Bridging is encouraged

    • Failure leads to inquiry

    • Novelty implemented

Westrum defines culture as "...the pattern of response to the problems and opportunities it encounters", which I think is delicious 🤤 !

In other words, how the organisations' leaders focus on personal needs, bureaucratic objectives, and the mission heavily influences the type of culture created.

If leaders ask their people to collaborate but foster a pathological or bureaucratic culture, folks are likely to keep their heads down and remain in their silos.