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How Spiral Dynamics Can Help To Become More Agile

| by Ben Linders Follow 12 Followers on Dec 01, 2014. Estimated reading time: 3 minutes |

To become agile you might need to change the core values and beliefs of an organization. Applying value systems from spiral dynamics can help organizations to go from doing agile to being agile as Dajo Breddels showed in the path to agility at the XP Days Benelux 2014 conference.

The definition of spiral dynamics from spiraldynamics.org is:

Based in the original research and theory building of Dr. Clare W. Graves, [the spiral dynamics] point of view describes how emergent waves of consciousness flow through individuals and groups leading to greater expansiveness in thinking and an increase in conceptual space – the entry of more factors into life’s equation and the ability to incorporate more ways of knowing. He called it “the emergent, cyclical, double-helix theory of adult biopsychosocial systems development.” The theory and models drawn from it elaborate different ways of thinking, thus behaving, which are congruent with shifting views of existence and which people functioning at those different levels deem appropriate.

Spiral dynamics defines eight value systems which are ways of thinking. Each one has it’s own color. Dajo presented an overview of the value systems and showed how you can apply spiral dynamics to become increasingly agile.

The blue value system matches with a procedural approach to agile. The strength of this system is its focus on order and control, the drawback is that it can make an agile implementation slow and inflexible. As there are many procedures, to keep it agile you need to take something out if you want to put something new in.

The orange value system is money driven, it focuses on how you can do more with less, improve and outsmart your competition. You can use it when there is a direct financial crisis. To keep it agile you would limit the maximum cost reduction or growth of the organization.

People are the main thing that matter in the green value system. It can be applied for political sensitive projects where involvement of people is crucial for success. The danger is to involve too many people, getting paralyzed when going for consensus.

According to Dajo the yellow value system represents effective agile. Effectiveness is more important than efficiency and change needs to be embraced to improve continuously. The main strength of the yellow system is that it helps you to see all other value systems. You know the values and when to apply a system. One color isn’t better than another color, but it might be more suitable for a situation said Dajo.

Most commonly organizations are blue at the bottom (procedural) and orange at the top (money/result driven). If they adopt agile then you often see a green part (people & involvement) inside the blue bottom. Dajo stated that for ideal solution for agile would be to have everything yellow. What you can do is to make the agile green part more yellow and try to surround the organization at all levels with as much “yellow agile” as possible, for instance with coaching.

You can assess the value system by observing behavior, interactions and the use of language or with the use of questionnaires.

Dajo provided suggestions to transform an organization from doing agile to being agile:

  • Look for what to keep
  • Make use of the dominant color to implement the new one
  • Don’t skip colors (there is no shortcut)
  • Acknowledge the past and show that the environment has changed
  • Emphasize signs of new the color when they occur
  • Make sure the environment supports the new color
  • Use real life

To change the culture of an organization you can decrease the influence of a value systems,add things from another value system or use parts of a current value system to interest people to new ideas which are part of the next value system. In his presentation Dajo Breddels provided additional suggestions on how to go from one color to another.

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