Agile Culture, The

Pollyanna Pixton / Paul Gibson / Niel Nickolaisen  
Total pages
February 2014
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Agile Culture, The
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Many books talk about the importance of culture to agile success. The Agile Culture shows the reader how to make the specific culture changes needed for agile success. The authors provide proven tools and models for moving from "date-driven, internally-focused" cultures to "value-driven, customer-focused" cultures where agile can thrive and flourish. They offer clear rationales for using each tool, demonstrate it at work, present relevant case studies and examples, define expected outcomes, and show how to measure success. Using these techniques, students will learn to achieve the results promised by agile: a culture of continuous innovation, transparency, and trust.


  • Students will learn to:
  • Build value-driven, customer-focused cultures that support Agile methods, promote innovation, and accelerate the delivery of products that customers love
  • Overcome the false certainties of conventional "date-driven, internally-focused" software development cultures
  • Improve the performance of agile teams, product managers, and project managers
  • Systematically align technology decisions with corporate vision and strategy

Table of Contents

Foreword xv

Preface xvii

Acknowledgments xix


Chapter 1: Unleashing Talent 1

The Big Ideas 1

Who Moved My World? 1

The Power of Trust and Ownership 2

Getting Started with Trust and Ownership 8

Book Conventions 11

References 11


Chapter 2: Trust and Ownership 13

The Big Ideas 13

Some Teams Do Better Than Others 13

The Trust-Ownership Model 15

Energy and Innovation 26

Why Purpose Matters 29

You Cannot Defy Gravity 32

A Foundation of Integrity and Honesty 39

In Summary 40


Chapter 3: Building Trust and Ownership 41

The Big Ideas 41

Getting to “Green” 41

Trust-Ownership Assessment 42

Getting to Trust and Ownership 46

Hitting the Walls 56

In Summary 57


Chapter 4: Trust Tools 59

The Big Ideas 59

Why Trust Matters 59

Trust Assessment 60

Broken Trust or Lack of Trust 62

Creating a Culture of Trust 64

Your Leadership Role 67

Making a Change 68

Decision Filters 69

In Summary 70

References 70


Chapter 5: Ownership Tools 71

The Big Ideas 71

Give or Take? 71

Taking Ownership 72

Don’t Take Away Ownership 72

Help Teams Take Ownership 75

Macro-Leadership Cube 81

In Summary 86

References 86


Chapter 6: Business Alignment Tools 87

The Big Ideas 87

Are We Aligned with the Company’s Business Goals? 87

Purpose-Based Alignment Model 88

Business Value Model 94

Product/Project Inception Planning 100

In Summary 110

References 111


Chapter 7: Dealing Honestly with Ambiguity 113

The Big Ideas 113

Easing the Need for Certainty 113

Proactive Risk Management 114

 “Purchasing” Options to Reduce Risks 127

Making Proactive Risk Management Visible 130

Make Progress Visible 131

Ambiguity and Iterative Methods 133

In Summary 135


Chapter 8: Tools to Deal with Walls 137

The Big Ideas 137

It’s Hard 137

“I Need It by This Date! And I Need It All!” 138

Managing Up 141

Collaborating with Non-Collaborators 143

In Summary 161

References 162


Chapter 9: Metrics 163

The Big Ideas 163

Why Metrics Matter 163

Integrity 165

Measuring Culture Change 169

Metrics Walls 174

Getting Useful Metrics, Removing the Rest 176

Metrics Programs 183

Getting Started 184

In Summary 184

References 185


Chapter 10: Case Study 187


Appendix A: Quick Reference Guide 207


Appendix B: Trust-Ownership Assessment 209

Team Questions on Trust and Ambiguity 209

Team Questions on Ownership and Alignment 210

Leader Questions on Trust and Ambiguity 211

Leader Questions on Ownership and Alignment 212

Mark Your Positions 213

Discussion Points 213


Appendix C: Collaboration Process 215

What It Is 215

When to Use It 215

How to Use It 215


Appendix D: Collaborating with Non-Collaborators Worksheet 217

Think of a Non-Collaborator You Struggle With 217

What Are the Traits (Behaviors) of Your Non-Collaborator? 217

What Type Is Your Non-Collaborator? 217

What Makes Your Non-Collaborator Tick? 218

What Makes You Tick? 219

Where Are You Compared to Your Non-Collaborator? 220

Why Do You Want to Collaborate with This Non-Collaborator? 221

Manage Your Risks 221

Dealing with Non-Collaborators 222

Appendix E What to Do about Metrics 223

A Detailed Description 223

Internal Metrics 223

Organizational Metrics 224

External Metrics 226

Examples of Possible Metrics 227


About the Authors 231

Index 233


Pollyanna Pixton, an internationally recognized expert on collaborative leadership, is president of Accelinnova, a firm providing proven tools for leading transformations. Pollyanna led development of the Swiss electronic stock exchange.


Paul Gibson spent more than thirty years developing products for IBM. For four years, he helped lead, guide, train, and transform IBM software teams worldwide in collaborative, agile, and lean approaches. He is a lifetime British Computer Society Fellow.


Niel Nickolaisen is the chief technology officer at O.C. Tanner. Niel has spent his career finding rapid, pragmatic ways to improve processes, teams, and results. He is passionate about transforming IT and leadership, and speaks about, writes about, and trains others how to do this.

Reader Review(s)

“This is the Agile book I’ve been waiting for. Enough with the rituals of process. Let’s get into

what really matters–creating the culture that teams need to thrive.”

—Marty Cagan, founding partner, The Silicon Valley Product Group


“A book full of practical tools and real-life stories–a great resource for every leader involved

in a serious Agile transformation.”

—Hendrik Esser, director of portfolio and technology management, Ericsson


“ ‘What is culture? How do we create a culture? What are our cultural problems?’ These

questions can have lofty, philosophical, theoretical answers that sound profound. Unfortunately,

profundity rarely gets the job done. The authors have once again broken an important

topic into easily understood parts. Not only do they make the questions understandable, they

provide specific, actionable techniques for answering the questions and addressing the challenges.

This book is as much a how-to as it is a what-is-it and a why-do-I-care book. Everybody

who is in a leadership role, or deals with people in leadership roles (that’d be just about

everyone, right?) should read this.”

—Steven “Doc” List, vice president of learning, Santeon Group


“The content is phenomenal! Just an incredible distillation of years of experience.”

—Christine DelPrete, senior director of technology, Amirsys, Inc.