Agile Culture Gap and How to Mitigate this

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All you need to know about Agile Culture Gap and its prevention

All you need to know about Agile Culture Gap and its prevention

Agile Development is highly prevalent amongst most professionals and organizations, especially in the IT sector (although, it can be applied in any industry). It has gained a lot of traction due to its particular approach to project work and the efficient management of the time duration required to implement the goals. However, in any project management model, cooperation, trust, acknowledgment, communication, and reliability are crucial to product success.

But, what is the Agile Culture Gap?

It can be anything showcasing cultural differences which may interfere with the workflow and the interaction between team members. This can range from cultural barriers like language gaps to others like rules gap, trust gap, risk gap, and contract gap.

Now, let's look at what are the reasons for Agile Culture Gap: 
The trust gap:

The trust gap can be between several entities in a workplace employing Agile practices. It can be between the Product Owner and the manager, it can be between team members, or it can be between team members and the Product Manager. 

 The trust gap can originate from: 
  1. Lack of effective communication
  2. Lack of adherence to the deadlines of the previous Agile user stories or iterations 
  3. Lack of competency
  4. Lack of showcasing initiative or domain expertise
  5. Management who does not fully endorse Agile systems, resulting in loss of employee confidence and loyalty

Team members are more concerned about highlighting their performance than with functioning together as a unit

Language Gap:

This goes a little beyond the normal language barrier of potentially working with someone who might not understand the other team-members spoken languages. The Language gap also includes any miscommunication due to a lack of knowledge about Agile terminology or codes that a certain workplace might have.

Let's elaborate with another hypothetical scenario:

There might be some miscommunication between Person A and Person B with different cultural origins or different experiences in prior workplaces. Person A might not swiftly use the terminology used by Person B to communicate, resulting in inefficient workflow or even miscommunication. Hence, any language gap must be resolved for efficient and effective workflow. It is better if team members would be equipped to use Agile in their roles effectively after they grasp the ideas behind certain unfamiliar terminologies.

The rules gap:

Workplaces (and even the Government of the country in which the workplace or work is situated) may have different sets of rules and regulations, and even these rules may differ between departments. Different sets of rules, regulations, and repercussions for deadlines, communication, resource management, and team hierarchy are crucial to the workflow. Team-members with different cultures or countries of origin or different prior-working experiences may have trouble complying with these rules and regulations due to a lack of awareness or understanding of the said rules.

The contract gap:

A contract between the client and the Product Management authority or a contract between the management and the team confirms the product resources, time duration, priorities, collaborating planning, and features assurance.

Any lack of vital information from the contract originating from the culture gap may deliver unexpected results for both the client and the firm. This could thereby result in a lack of coordination and commitment.

In Agile, the contract is not finalized initially, as the entire purpose of Agile Planning is that the plan may change to a certain degree according to needs, and the team would not have to start from the beginning.

Any discrepancy between the contractual phase when the contract is not finalized can be a part of the contract gap. Stakeholders can issue conditional and cumulative contracts and have the flexibility to change contractors at any point. 

The risk gap:

The benefits like efficiency and accuracy of Agile Planning and Estimation may subside once the culture gaps combined with other risk factors start to disrupt the product development.

As mentioned before as well, the nature of the Agile planning approach prevents the contract from being fixed. Any variable not up to the Stakeholders expectation can set off the cancellation or warrant penalty to the product. 

The prior statement establishes you can change the expected budget, resources, or time required during a product in-between the product development. COs or Contracting Officers can hold the firm or firms developing the product accountable for underperformance or delays in the product deployment. 

Avoiding the Agile Culture Gap:

Several factors may cause the gap as mentioned before, let's see the best ways to avoid the Agile Culture Gap:

Communication is Key:

Communication with the Product Owner, Stakeholders, and the Scrum team through the management is very crucial. It would be best to consider Stakeholders' feedback at every step to reduce the risk of any discrepancy further down the production cycle. Answering the client's queries about the product's development is vital to ensure that the product meets the Stakeholders' expectations. 

Ideally, you must share the Stakeholder's vision regarding the product via the team developing it and enhanced through constant calculated suggestions based on expertise. 

Between team or teams, the collaboration strategy or the entire game-plan to develop the product should be well defined by the management, and you should also take feedback from the team. 

The inter-team and intra-team communication should also be as efficient as possible without getting stuck in a hierarchical authoritative loop.

Guidance between management and team(s) and the Stakeholder should be descriptive and precisely defined. Strategies for the product vision must have the synergy to converge into the product roadmap and iteration cycles.

You must do a frequent demonstration of the work and the product for the client. This establishes loyalty from the Stakeholders and reduces the risk of failure of expectations.

You should consider the Stakeholders changing requirements with utmost importance:
  • In order to adapt Agile methodology, it requires evaluating and understanding what modifications are necessary as soon as possible. 
  • The team must also observe the industry and determine what other rivals are up to. 
  • Alternatives that'd save time should always be explored with permission from the client.
  • It would be best to focus on the balance between efficiency during the development and reliability with security.
  • It is crucial that with each Sprint, the refinement of the product as per the Product Owner growing needs must be focused on. By the last few Sprints, the product must have a successful presentation and expected outputs.

This mitigates the risk of a Contractual Gap.

Learn things before starting the development of the product:

Teaching specific skills or newer solutions that individual team members might be unaware of must be encouraged before starting the product. This boosts team members' efficiency and competency to come up with quick solutions to problems and prevents delays to the product roadmap.

Learning about the Government or the workplace rules and regulations will also be beneficial to mitigate the risk of the Rules Gap.

Best way to mitigate the trust gap:

The trust gap can be bridged by careful evaluation of the team members to prevent discrepancies from being repeated. Constant updates and demonstrations to the Stakeholders will also ease them into trusting the team members. 

It is suggested to organize team-building exercises to help promote trust amongst the team.

Starting Small with the Estimates:

Avoid specifying the entire backlog or scope of the project to a great degree of accuracy when preparing a change or defining conditions for a change. 

The team may also overlook something or mismanagement while changing to the product owner's modification of the requirements.

Breaking down complex estimates about the stories or iterations can make the product owners easily comprehend the game plan.

Clear guidance and roadmap to ensure the requirements of the client are also key here.

Individual performance is often the benchmark or yardstick for workplaces, which adds to the culture gap's problems. The management must encourage individuals to work as a team unit by having precise communication with responsibility and acknowledgment to the Culture gap. Agile Planning has efficiency at its core, and you must maintain that at every interaction between all concerned parties to ensure the product's success.

The closer collaboration between the Stakeholder and the Scrum team will mitigate certain risks of the Agile planning approach's culture gap.


Useful Links:

SAFe Agilist Training LyonAdvanced Scrum Master Online Course ToledoLeading SAFe Training AdelaideSAFe Agilist Course Training Fort SmithCSPO Online Certification BakersfieldSprint Backlog Vs Release BacklogCSPO Online Course OsloCSPO Certification KochiCertified Scrum Master Online Training AustraliaProduct Owner Course Training Minneapolis



Is a passionate learner and blogger on Agile, Scrum and Scaling areas. She has been following and practicing these areas for several years and now converting those experiences into useful articles for your continuous learning.