Here’s another chapter of the book that I’m writing on Digital Transformation.
To increase the chance of success of a digital transformation, it is necessary to create and foster a digital culture, which is also known as product culture.
The word culture comes from the Latin culere, which means “to cultivate”. Edgar Schein, a professor at the MIT School of Business, was one of the first people to talk about organizational culture in the 1970s.
According to him, each company has its own personality and its own way of acting and reacting to situations; this form that is passed from employee to employee since the founders of the company.
“Culture is a set of assumptions that have been learned and shared by a group of people while solving problems of external adaptation and internal integration. This set of assumptions works well enough to be considered valid and, consequently, to be taught to new members of the group as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to these problems.”
Source: SCHEIN, Edgar. Organizational Culture and Leadership. Jossey-Bass, 2010
That is, explaining it in an even more summarized way, culture is nothing more than the set of principles and behaviors that a group of people uses daily.
The culture comes from the company’s founders. Founders have their own culture, and it is natural for them to imprint it on the organization they are creating. As a result, it is very common to think that it is something that emerges in an organization. Schein warns that this is a mistake. Cultures can and should be planned, and it is our role and responsibility to plan and promote the company’s culture.
Agile culture is a set of principles and behaviors designed to help improve the software development process. It was created in 2001 by 17 software developers with the following statement:
We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.
Source: Agile Manifesto, 2001, https://agilemanifesto.org
Note that the Agile Manifesto does not say anything about agile methodologies or the terms scrum, sprint, kanban, dailies, retrospective, sprint planning, etc. It refers to principles and behaviors. It is common to find companies that say they are undergoing a digital transformation because they implemented some agile methodology, that they do two-week sprints, that their teams do dailies, and a bunch of other ceremonies and terms from agile methodologies. It’s a good start, but implementing agile methodology without understanding the agile culture and its principles will hardly make this company take the best advantage of using technology to enhance the business.
It is clear that only using agile methodologies is not enough, it is necessary to have and cultivate an agile culture, constantly practicing its principles. The next question is: is having an agile culture enough for the success of a digital transformation?
The short answer is no. Agile culture is an important step towards delivering better digital products, but it is not enough. Notice that the agile manifesto says that “We are discovering better ways to develop software”. I put emphasis on the words better ways because these words clearly show the purpose of agile culture and its principles of improving the software development process.
I will make a slight change to that sentence to show you what’s not covered by the Agile Manifesto. Imagine that instead of being “We are discovering better ways to develop software”, the phrase was “We are discovering ways to develop better software“. In this sentence, I purposely moved the focus to develop and deliver better software, that is, that helps to achieve the goals of the company that owns the software while solving problems and meeting the needs of its customers.
Agile culture is very important for digital transformation, but it is not enough. Something more is needed!
In the same way that the agile world has methodologies and frameworks, it is common to hear comments from people who are getting to know about digital product management and development and even those who have been working in this area for a few years that this area is full of frameworks and tools.
Product vision, value exchange map, product strategy, team structure, tribe, squad, chapter, OKR (Objectives and Key Results), roadmap, backlog, design sprint, scrum, sprint, retrospective, design thinking, persona, ICP (ideal customer profile), empathy map, agile methodologies, kanban, daily review, lean startup, user story mapping, jobs to be done, a/b test, product analytics, customer development, growth, product-led growth, AARRR (acquisition, activation, retention, revenue, and recommendation), MVP (Minimum Viable Product), business model canvas, customer journey maps, continuous delivery, kano model, value vs. effort matrix, BCG matrix, product life cycle, SWOT analysis, RASCI (responsible, accountable, support, communicated, informed), power-interest grid, and so on.
No wonder people are scared. The number of tools and frameworks is huge!
It is important to know these tools and know how to use them. Some are used more often, some less often, but they are only useful when used for the most appropriate problems and situations. Making an analogy with physical tools, even to fix a screw, there is the regular screwdriver, Philips screwdriver. Allen key, and so on.
However, before getting to know the tools, it is very important to understand the principles that guide digital product development and management, as these are the principles that justify using this or that tool.
A principle is a proposition or value that guides behavior or an assessment.
That is, principles are what guide the behavior we should have when dealing with a situation. It is a concept that goes hand in hand with the concept of values that make up the culture of a company or a group of people.
When a company decides to start a digital transformation, that is, it decides to adopt digital technologies to enhance the business, it is not enough just to understand the new technologies that will be used, it is also necessary to adopt new principles and behaviors to be able to extract the maximum value from these new technologies. technologies. It is necessary to adopt a digital culture, which is also known as product culture.
There is a set of four principles that are the core of every successful digital product development team. These are the principles that make up the digital product culture, which is nothing more than the set of behaviors used by the digital product development teams that produce the best results. The four principles, which will be the subject of the next part of this book, are:
The arrow represents the path I see companies take when going through a digital transformation. First, they put a bunch of tools and methodologies. Then they realize that this is not enough. They understand that an agile culture work is necessary, which already greatly improves the digital maturity of the company as it starts to understand the principles behind the tools and methodologies. But it is still not enough, and this is where product culture comes in, to reinforce the connection between what is being done (digital products) with the company’s objectives and the customers’ problems.
The arrow shows that this is the most common path that companies follow, but it is not necessarily the best one. The most indicated is the understanding that the 3 aspects (tools and methodologies + agile culture + product culture) are necessary to succeed in a digital transformation and that we must work simultaneously on the 3.
There are already good books and courses on the tools, methodologies, and agile culture. Therefore, in the book I’m writing about Digital Transformation, I will focus on the Product Culture and its Principles that serve as the basis for the success of a digital transformation!
I have already found several companies that were using agile methodologies and considered that they had made the digital transformation.
Careful! Agile methodologies are just the process behind the agile culture. Just following some agile methodology will not help you create better products that help your company achieve its goals while solving problems and meeting your customers’ needs. Behavior change is needed, and cultural change is needed.
And having an agile culture is not enough. It is necessary to go further and have a digital product culture, which is going to help you and your company to build better digital products aligned with your company’s strategic objectives and the problems and needs of your customers.
I’ve been helping companies and their leaders (CPOs, heads of product, CTOs, CEOs, tech founders, and heads of digital transformation) bridge the gap between business and technology through workshops, coaching, and advisory services on product management and digital transformation.
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