Project Management

What is Cultural Agility and why does it matter?

From the The Agility Series Blog
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The Agility Series focuses on agile and agility across the organization not just in software and product development. Areas of agility that will be covered in blog posts will include: - Organizational Agility - Leadership Agility - Strategic Agility - Value Agility - Delivery Agility - Business Agility - Cultural Agility - Client Agility - Learning Agility

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Now that the New Year is off and running, we will be getting started on the next book in The Agility Series which will be on Cultural Agility. So what exactly is Cultural Agility and why does it matter?

Within the agile space much has been said and written about creating/enabling an agile culture or a culture of agility. Here's one definition I came across for an agile culture that pretty much sums it up: 

An "agile" culture (with a lower-case "a") is one that has adopted a style, approach, and community that is tolerant of failure, willing to test hypotheses, and able to adjust to changing market conditions as deemed necessary.(1)

But is that the same thing as cultural agility? Apparently not.  There are multiple definitions out there such as:

Cultural agility is the mega-competency which enables professionals to perform successfully in cross-cultural situations. Culturally agile professionals succeed in contexts where the successful outcome of their jobs, roles, positions, or tasks depends on dealing with an unfamiliar set of cultural norms—or multiple sets of them (2)

And this one:

Cultural agility is the ability to understand multiple local contexts and work within them to obtain consistent business results.  For today’s global organizations, cultural agility is the new competitive edge. While individual capacities are important, successful organizations build an institutional level of a global mindset and skills for effectively coordinating, negotiating and influencing across boundaries. (3)

While there are many other definitions, all seem to be focused on the fact that organizations may operate in different locales and need to be culturally aware (3) or there are many different cultural groups that may exist inside of your local organization (2). Most organizations that I have dealt with in recent years have an incredibly rich set of international cultures resident within them. This trend is increasing. And to me, that's a good thing.

I would take culture a step further and say that modern organizations need both an agile culture, and their people need to be culturally agile. My hypothesis is that the former provides focus for developing the shared values and principles that guide our collective actions, while the later helps us understand how we personally interpret and apply those shared values and principles, which will necessarily affect how we interact with those who are culturally different than we are. I feel both perspectives are crucial to success in modern organizations. I think it also fits with my humanist tendencies. Wikipedia defines humanism as:

Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and affirms their ability to improve their lives through the use of reason and ingenuity as opposed to submitting blindly to tradition and authority or sinking into cruelty and brutality.

For those who may be wondering, this definition is not, for me, an anti-religious stance. It's more focused on the idea that we really all do need to get along if we are to create vibrant and long-lived organizations. We also need to be able to draw on the collective wisdom of all rather than on the ideas of just the few people at the top. 

The two books in The Agility Series so far have been guided by the ideas provided by people from Australia, Great Britain, Canada, USA, Singapore, France and Belgium. As these two were by invitation-only to be a member of the Wisdom Council for each book, we are planning to open it up for the remaining seven books in the series so that we can have an even greater mix of countries and cultures represented.

What better book to start doing that than with the next one we are tackling on Cultural Agility?

Want to explore what cultural agility means to you and why it matters?

To join in our next adventure in agility, look out for a post in a few weeks when we officially launch our first round of questions for the third book in The Agility Series on Cultural Agility. If you want to read the first two books in the series, go to www.mplaza.ca and download Organization Agility and Leadership Agility to get you into what we have explored so far. I have removed the pricing on Leadership Agility so it's now free to download!

Want to have a say in the questions we'll be asking in Round one?

Jen Hunter and I will be giving a presentation at PMIOVOC on January 25th at noon called Best decision yet: Aspiring together to co-create global wisdom! If you are in the Ottawa area, come join us as we let you in on how the Series came about. You'll also get a chance to provide input to the set of questions we will use in the first round of ideas gathering for Cultural Agility! Hope to see you there!

PS: also come join the conversation on our LinkedIn Group 

(1) https://www.quora.com/What-is-Agile-Culture

(2) http://www.culturalagility.com/

(3) http://lexicon.ft.com/Term?term=cultural-agility

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We also offer classroom training for Scrum.org courses plus other agile and Scrum training (http://bssnexus.com/education/)

 

Posted on: January 15, 2017 12:40 PM | Permalink

Comments (5)

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Andy Kaufman Host| People and Projects Podcast Lake Zurich, Il, USA
Sounds like you have a rich topic to explore and help us with, Lawrence. For what it's worth, I've found Tom Verghese to be a helpful voice on the topic. An example of him discussing it in his own words can be found at:
http://PeopleAndProjectsPodcast.com/146

Please keep us updated on the progress of your new book!

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Lawrence Cooper Creator, Lean-Agile Strategy| AdaptiveOrg Inc. Kanata, Ontario, Canada
Andy

Thanks for the link - I'll check it out.

By the way, you can also be a contributor to this book and the remaining ones in the series. Connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on twitter @Cooperlk99 or our LinkedIn group as I'll be posting the link to our questions on Cultural Agility there in a couple of weeks (or less).

I also do interviews for Podcasts if you are interested in having me on yours - you can check out one I did recently at https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/software-process-measurement/id213024387?mt=2 or at
http://spamcast.libsyn.com/spamcast-418-larry-cooper-the-agility-series


Kindest Regards,
Larry

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Alaa Hussein Program Manager| MEMECS Baghdad, Iraq
Thanks Lawrence

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Mansoor Mustafa Senior PM| Government Department Rawalpindi Punjab, Pakistan
Thanks Lawrence

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Najam Mumtaz Retired Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
Seems to be a great series of books in transforming organizations to accommodate different cultures while taking advantage of diversity of experience and thinking.

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