Aligning to the Organization


The Scrum Master as a Change Agent
The Cultural Model

The course is part of this learning path

The Cultural Model

Course Description 

This module looks in detail at the Schneider Culture Model and what this means in an Agile environment which adopts a Scrum-friendly culture. It then presents two models for adopting an agile culture – the Agile Business Consortium’s Cultural DNA model and the Prince2 Agilometer from Axelos.   

Learning Objectives 

The objectives of this course are to provide you with and understanding of: 

  • The components of Schneider’s cultural model and its role in helping to judge an organization’s culture. 
  • How to map your organization’s culture to the model. 
  • What different cultures mean and generate useful ideas to support the transformation process. 

Intended Audience 

The course is aimed at the Agile Scrum Master. However, it’s equally relevant to the Product Owner’s role in the team. 

Prerequisites of the Certifications 

There are no specific pre-requisites to study this course 


We welcome all feedback and suggestions - please contact us at to let us know what you think. 


As we’ve seen, a culture that welcomes and helps facilitate change is critical for agile adoption. 


It shapes the behaviors of the individuals working there, and becomes more and more distinct as they gain more experience working in the organization. 


The Schneider Culture Model 

A culture model tells you about the values and norms within your organization – it identifies how people approach work and each other. For example, some cultures might value stability and order, so they have clearly defined processes and a strong expectation of conformance. Other cultures might value innovation and creativity, so they might have more informal structures and working arrangements. 


There are many different cultural models you can use to assess for your organization – the one we’re going to look at has been developed by William Schneider. The Schneider Culture Model is a simple tool to help you judge your organization’s current culture, and can be used to generate ideas that can help you during the transformation process. 


Schneider defines culture as ‘how we do things around here to succeed’ and his grid has two axes: 

  • The horizontal axis is about whether the organization has a personal, people-oriented culture or an impersonal, company-oriented culture; and  

  • The vertical axis is about an actuality, reality-oriented culture or a future, possibility-oriented culture. 


Then, within these four quadrants, distinct organizational cultures are defined: 


  • The collaboration culture is at the core of agile – an organization succeeds by everything and everybody working together. This is high people and high-reality oriented so negative behavior and self-interest don’t feature. Words that help define what this culture is about are trust, partnership and affiliation; 

  • The control culture is where an organization succeeds by getting and keeping control. It’s high on reality and company-orientation and is all about following rules and working in a hierarchical structure – there’s no room for emotions or subjectivity. Words that define this culture include power, predictability, stability and security; 

  • The competence culture is about being number 1 – an organization succeeds by being the best which means having the best product, service, process or technology in the marketplace. It’s high on company and possibility-orientation and can be signified by meritocracy, craftsmanship, expertise and professionalism; 

  • Finally, a cultivation culture is where an organization succeeds by growing people who fulfil the vision and is high people and possibility-orientation. Words that help define this culture are grow, faith, purpose and dedication. Like the competence culture, this culture also focuses on creativity. 


Looking at the picture like this shows the relationships between the cultures. For example, a control culture is more compatible with a collaboration or competence culture than with a cultivation culture. In fact, a cultivation culture is the opposite of a control culture – learning and growing is the opposite of security and structure. Similarly, collaboration is the opposite of competence. It’s definitely not a case of ‘opposites attract’. 


But it’s important to note that no culture type is considered better than another – each has strengths and weaknesses depending on the context the organization is operating in and the type of work that’s being done. Organizations will typically have a dominant culture with aspects from other cultures and, this is OK, as long as those aspects work with the dominant culture. However, different departments or groups may have different cultures; which can often lead to conflict across the organization. 


What does this mean for Agile? 

When we overlay the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto on the Schneider model, we get an interesting insight into the important cultural fit for an Agile organization and, critically, how organizations who are transforming, need to adapt. 


When we look at the Values, they seem to fit with the collaboration and competency cultures. Critically, the control culture doesn’t feature. 


Then, the picture is illuminated further when we look at the Agile Principles. 


In the collaboration quadrant we see things like trust, alignment, self-organizing, regular delivery and face-to-face interactions. The cultivation quadrant includes things like regular reflection, self-improvement and accommodating changing requirements, and the competence quadrant has a key element of technical detail and excellence. 


If an organization is adopting Agile practices, they must be predominantly people-orientedIn the context of the Schneider model, a transformation would be a shift from one core culture to another – in agile terms, transformation is a shift to an Agile Mindset – which means a shift in culture. 


There’s likely to be resistance to change – the reasons need to be identified and plans developed to overcome them. Things like participation, communication and training will all helpOvercoming resistance also involves unfreezing which is about questioning the existing culture and helping individuals consider the new beliefs they need to develop to help transform the organization. 


A shift in leadership is also expected. This might mean moving from a command and control culture to a collaborative model that builds trust, and pushes ownership and decision making down the organization. Clearly, this needs to be driven from the top. 


A Scrum-friendly culture 

To be successful in encouraging a growth mindset to support the implementation of change across the organization and prepare the team for change, you need to create a Scrum-friendly culture. 


This type of culture: 

  • Stimulates team members to hold themselves and others accountable; 

  • Appreciates everyone for their unique talents and skills; 

  • Values behaviour over achievements; 

  • Invites and inspires employees to get the most out of themselves; 

  • Thrives on self-discipline where trust and ownership are given to employees; 

  • Values team success over individual success; 

  • Supports stable team composition over a longer period to increase performance; 

  • Delivers business value by small, co-located, cross-functional and self-organising teams;  

  • Helps employees succeed by giving support, trust and guidance; 

  • Promotes continuous improvement and experimentation; 

  • Puts the customer at the centre of its operations; 

  • Values products instead of projects;  

  • Replaces temporary, comprehensive documentation with face-to-face communication; and 

  • Considers the act of planning more useful than the actual plan. 


As the Scrum Master, you have a key role to play in this. 


There’s more information about the Schneider Cultural Model and how it links to different agile cultures in the ‘How to Make Your Culture Work with Agile, Kanban and Software Craftmanship’ guide. You’ll find the link in the Change Agent Resources. 

About the Author
Learning Paths

Tony has over 20 years’ experience in Business Development, Business Change, Consulting, and Project/Program Management working with public, private, and third sector organizations.

He has helped organizations to design and create processes and procedures to align ways of working with corporate strategy. A highly motivated and detailed solution provider, utilizing a wide range of methods and frameworks to provide structure whilst promoting creativity and innovation.

As a confident and self-motivated professional with excellent communication skills, Tony is able to bring people together and get them working as a team quickly.

Tony is an Agile and Scrum trainer with a vast knowledge spanning IT Systems, Business Change, Program and Project Management. With excellent presentation skills and a solid background, he ensures that all clients gain maximum benefit from his training. He has successfully guided those new to the industry through their initial training, helped experienced staff as they progress in their careers, and worked at the director level advising on best use and practice, as well as tailoring courses to fulfil the exact needs of clients.