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Culture is the Boogeyman

Mike Cottmeyer
Reading: Culture is the Boogeyman

Culture is just the boogeyman people use when they don’t know how to articulate an organizational change management strategy that executives will buy into. – Mike Cottmeyer

You should do Scrum.

You should be open to change.

You should be a servant leader.

You should empower your people.


You’re a bad leader. You have a bad culture.

Maybe, but I’m telling you…companies have legit barriers to adopting Agile. Non-trivial problems to solve.

Companies have competing interests and needs. Poor technology architecture. Uneven staffing models. Lack of subject matter expertise. Crushing market pressure. Governance and funding challenges. Broken systems of delivery.

Even if you know what to do, fixing these things takes time and costs money.

In the interim… work has to get done, clients have to get served, revenue has to be generated.

Careers are on the line.

Unless you have an answer to exactly how a company is going to introduce Agile in an economically justifiable way… how they’re going to remove the impediments to Agility… how they’re going to hire the right people… how they’re going to service the existing customer commitments… how they’re going to meet the expectations of their market… and how they’re going to make money while they do it… you don’t have an answer.

Pointing to culture as the problem is insufficient.

If you were king for the day. If you could flip culture overnight. What would you have everyone go do tomorrow?

If you don’t have an answer to that question, culture is not your problem.

Culture is just the boogeyman people use when they don’t know how to articulate an organizational change management strategy that executives will buy into. – Mike Cottmeyer

Next Is Culture Really the Problem? w/ Mike Cottmeyer

LeadingAgile CEO and Founder, Mike Cottmeyer is passionate about solving the challenges associated with agile in larger, more complex enterprises. To that end, he and his team are dedicated to providing large-scale agile transformation services to help pragmatically, incrementally, and safely introduce Agile methods.

Comments (2)

  1. RC

    This is a rather bitter and defeatist article. I’ve never encountered any Agile or DevOps consultant who’s said “Your problem is culture” and then simply left it at that.

    I’ve worked at world-leading banks with 200,000+ employees that are changing the corporate culture but, if you still think it’s too difficult and costly to shift your company’s culture from Theory X to a Theory Y, then don’t do that. Leave the culture as it is. But then don’t be surprised when any attempts to implement Agile, DevOps or Continuous Delivery fall flat on their faces after wasting months of time and money hammering a square peg into a round hole.

    Or… take a little time to read up on practical examples of how other seemingly entrenched companies have managed to solve all of this. You’re not as unique as you think you are.

    • Mike Cottmeyer

      RC, thanks for your comment. I’m not sure what you think my point is. There is a very specific issue within the agile community, as often articulated by agile coaches, and often articulated by clients, that being unable to adopt agile is a culture problem. Of course there are ways to adopt agile… we lead these transformations all the time. This post was directed at the people that point to culture as the problem… or the primary barrier to adoption. Take a look at the other stuff I’ve written on this topic, or browse our website for a full perspective on what we think it takes to lead these kinds of changes.


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