Dealing with XP culture shock

Over the past few years, I have come to believe that as IT coaches, project managers, team leads, and sponsors, we can ensure that our approach to adopting XP enables the culture change required for XP to thrive. In fact, if we do not explicitly guide the culture change, XP will have difficulty gaining a foothold, let alone changing a social contract.

Organizational Culture

In his 1995 book Artful Work, Dick Richards provides a useful definition of organizational culture, putting it in context by categorizing culture as one of three organizational domains, along with the two others, purpose and people.

The culture domain of an organization, Richards says, contains these four elements:

1. Artifacts — anything the organization buys or creates for its own use

2. Procedures — formalized processes such as policies, strategies, and so on

3. Norms — unwritten rules about organizational members’ beliefs and behavior

4. Climate — current feel of the organization (whether it is energetic, optimistic, depressed, etc.)

XP directly challenges these culture elements by specifying values, principles, and practices to a level that includes artifacts, norms, and procedures.

To get a feel for how challenged your organization may be (or if you’ve taken the XP plunge, to understand why it is so challenged), consider each of the XP practices while reflecting on your culture domain. Ask yourself questions such as the following:

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