Culture refers to an organization’s shared beliefs and behaviors. It influences the way members of an organization make decisions and take action, and thus is a key determinant of organizational performance. Culture is seldom monolithic. Instead, organizations have sub-cultures and co-cultures. Even if the organization’s dominant culture is not focused on speed, a sub-group can establish their own culture of rapid innovation and acceleration. Culture is dynamic, not static. It changes in response to new people, new technologies, and new processes. A sub-culture can spread and replace a previously dominant culture. The fastest way to change a culture is to identify instances where the desired culture already exists and help that culture expand. Culture change is something leaders do with, not to, the other members of the organization.
Guiding Principles For Building A Culture of Acceleration
- A culture of acceleration is easier to establish and maintain in a flat organization.
- Delegating decision authorities to the lowest competent level and as close to the action as possible
- A program champion from the operational environment can help emphasize the need for a culture of acceleration.
- Expectations, goals, and incentives help shape a culture, so focus yours on acceleration.
- Tools and practices that encourage a culture of acceleration include tailoring and trimming.
- Psychological safety and trust between teammates creates team willingness to take risks associated with acceleration.
Better feedback and a solid effort to understand the gaps between what policies say and what actually must happen to get the job done are necessary to bridge the gap between policy makers and those who carry their policies out. Let’s look at how other professions handle frustrations with policy.
Acceleration exposes a program to some risks and mitigates others. Be mindful of the positive and negative impacts of acceleration.
Acceleration often creates pressure to make decisions before the necessary information is available. To address this dilemma, acceleration leaders should foster a culture of experimentation and rapid learning.
Clear, consistent communication from leadership, across multiple channels, is essential to guide individuals to operate confidently at increased speed.
Accelerated project teams often encounter resistance, ranging from passive skepticism to open opposition. Giving public awards and recognition for acceleration helps overcome the resistance.
Delegating decision authority helps make things go faster. Empowering decision authorities at lower-tiers of the organization is thus a key enabler of acceleration.
Acceleration often requires the team to acquire new skills. Fortunately, there are many training sources available.
Leaders have the opportunity – and the responsibility – to influence their team’s culture. One simple way to do this is to develop a specific strategy for changing team norms and behaviors.
- Fielding Tomorrow’s Air Force Faster and Smarter, Dr. Roper, Air Force Symposium 2019
- Contracting director shares plan for acquisition culture change, Jun 2019
- Acquisition Reform (Air Force RCO Secrets to Success), Air Force Symposium 2018, Video
- Strengths and Myths of What Makes SOF Acquisition Successful, Col. Joe Capobianco, Col. David Phillips, May 2018
- Changing the Story, Kessel Run supports warfighters while cracking the code of agile software development and acquisition for the Air Force, Nov 2018
- Changing Acquisition Culture, by Dan Ward, published at Center for National Policy, Nov 2013
- Influence Channels
- Authority, Autonomy, and Accountability: Defense Fielding Principles for Innovation and Speed to Mission, MITRE, Jun 2017
- Slow Defense Acquisition Costs Lives, MITRE, Dec 2016
- 4 Things Successful Leaders Say to Create a Culture of Innovation, Tamara Kleinberg, Feb 2018
- The Role of Campaigns of Experimentation in the Innovation Lifecycle, National Academies of Sciences committee report
- NAS Experimentation Report Briefing (PDF)
- Campaign of Experiments, Alberts & Hayes (PDF)
- Building a Culture of Innovation by Cris Beswick, Derek Bishop, and Jo Geraghty
- Culture at Netflix
- It’s Tough to Earn Employees’ Trust – That’s Why You Should Try This Unconventional Approach by Alison Davis