What Is an Agile Culture & How to Create It?

At its most basic, an Agile culture is a way of working where people focus on the Agile principles and values

It’s a culture that promotes cross-functional collaboration, practices customer-centricity, focuses on outcomes over outputs, experiments regularly, and makes decisions based on data, not opinions. 

It’s also a culture where nearly everyone has a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset, and where continuous improvement, rather than "this is the way we've always done it", is the norm.

Agile Culture Element 1: Growth Mindset

Growth Mindset as an Element of Agile Culture

A growth mindset, originated by Stanford professor Carol Dweck in her book Mindset, describes people who believe that their success depends on time and effort. It’s the first necessary element for building an Agile culture. 

People with a growth mindset feel their skills and intelligence can be improved with effort and persistence. They embrace challenges, persist through obstacles, learn from criticism, and seek out inspiration in others’ success.

These people believe that they can get better at something by dedicating time, effort, and energy. Working on one’s own flaws, and the process of improvement —not its outcomes —are the most important components. 

With time and practice, people with a growth mindset believe they can achieve what they want, which is key for thriving in an organization that has embraced an Agile culture.

Agile Culture Element 2: Collaboration

Open communication, trust, and a willingness to collaborate are also essential components of an Agile culture. This kind of collaboration and transparency leads to improved productivity. 

When people collaborate this openly, they’re able to achieve common goals and complete tasks more efficiently. This collaboration allows individuals to leverage their collective skills and knowledge, which leads to better decision-making, problem-solving, and increased productivity.

Collaboration can also lead to enhanced creativity and innovation. 

Working freely and openly with others sparks new ideas and promotes innovative thinking. When people work together, they share diverse perspectives and approaches, which lead to breakthroughs and new discoveries.

Lastly, collaboration helps to create a more positive work environment, which can lead to increased job satisfaction and better chances for sustaining an Agile culture within the organization. When people feel valued and supported by their colleagues, they’re more likely to feel engaged and motivated at work.

Agile Culture Element 3: Cross-Functional Teams

Agile encourages cross-functional teams where possible to enhance collaboration. But cross-functional teams have benefits that go beyond collaboration like:

Greater efficiency: Cross-functional teams can streamline processes and reduce bureaucracy by eliminating the need for hand-offs between departments or individuals.

Faster decision-making: Cross-functional teams allow for more Agile decision-making by bringing together all the necessary expertise and perspectives to a decision. This can help organizations that strive for an Agile culture respond more quickly to changing market conditions or customer needs.

Increased learning opportunities: Cross-functional teams provide opportunities for team members to learn new skills and broaden their understanding of the organization as a whole.

Improved employee engagement: Cross-functional teams provide opportunities for employees to have visibility to the impact of their work, leading to increased job satisfaction and engagement.

Agile Culture Element 4: Incremental and Iterative Work

Agile is by its very nature incremental and iterative. Teams create increments of value, whether as products, experiences, or marketing campaigns. They then iterate on these increments, constantly improving them through feedback from stakeholders and the market.

Working incrementally allows marketers to break work into small pieces and take advantage of small batch sizes to bring work products to customers sooner, delivering value early and often.  

Once marketers have built increments, they can then iterate on a regular cadence to integrate new learnings. This approach helps marketers reduce risk by understanding how customers respond to marketing efforts before committing large amounts of time and budget to work such as a marketing campaign, which is a crucial element of the Agile culture. 

An iterative, incremental approach increases our learning, as we get feedback more often, and we can adjust frequently, responding to changes rapidly.

Agile Culture Element 5: Hypothesis and Experiment Driven Approach

In addition to working incrementally and iteratively, Agile organizations act like scientists. 

They create hypotheses about what customers will like, what will work in their marketing context, and they test these hypotheses through experiments.

Using this approach, they’re always testing. Decisions are made not through meetings in conference room, but using data gathered through experiments.

As a result of all this experimentation, Agile organizations fail, early and often. They take chances and they stretch the boundaries of what the organization has tried before. 

But even when experiments fail, they learn and apply valuable lessons.

Agile Culture Element 6: Customer Centricity

Agile organizations are relentless in their focus on the customer. The customer has a seat in every meeting. 

Everyone creates content, events, and experiences with an eye turned towards the customer and their needs and wants. 

Customer Centricity

As explained in Agile Marketing Alliance’s article Introduction: The Value of Customer Centricity, organizations with an Agile culture must understand their customers, design remarkable experiences for them, and operationalize customer centricity. To do so, they must have customer-focused leadership, empower their front line, and make sure that everyone focuses on the right metrics of success.

Agile Culture Element 7: Continuous Improvement

An Agile culture requires continuous improvement. Agile cultures aren't created to remain static. They are constantly retrospecting, experimenting with new ways or working, and improving every aspect of their work.

This is a simple reflection of the reality that no Agile organization exists in a vacuum. The world around them is constantly changing, meaning they must also change to adapt. Without continuous improvement even the best Agile organization is doomed to atrophy.

Agile Culture Element 8: Respect, Psychological Safety, and Accountability

Agile cultures embody the values of respect for individuals, psychological safety, and accountability. These three values complement one another.

If you respect someone, you act towards them in a way that promotes psychological safety. They feel free to express their opinions because they know you will respect them enough to listen closely and respond in a thoughtful manner. As a result, critical ideas and feedback get heard instead of suppressed for fear or rejection.

If you respect someone, you also hold them accountable in a kind way, a psychologically safe way.

In an Agile culture, it's not just leaders holding employees accountable, it's everyone holding each other to account. Peers hold each other accountable; employees hold leaders accountable. All of this done in a way that is respectful and makes people feel safe and respected. It also creates a collective sense of responsibility for improvement.

How Does an Organization Create an Agile Culture?

It begins with leadership. Leaders need to be Agile themselves before embarking on a massive Agile “transformation” training everyone except the leadership team. In practice, that means:

  • Leaders should hold daily, 15-minute standups.
  • Leaders should operate in tight feedback loops (i.e., Sprints)
  • Leaders should hold themselves, not just their employees, accountable to outcomes.
  • Leaders should focus on just two or three things at a time. In other words, leaders should minimize work in progress (WIP).
  • Leaders should focus on continuous improvement in how they work together.


Creating an Agile culture is not easy. There are a lot of factors to consider and a lot of moving parts. It’s not something that happens overnight, and it is not something that can happen once and you're done; it requires constant maintenance. 

But the rewards are immense: organizations that are efficient, effective, responsive, and feel like great places to work. For companies looking to thrive in today’s fast-changing world, these benefits are essential foundations for success.

About the Author

Jim Ewel is one of the authors of the Agile Marketing Manifesto and a co-founder of the Agile Marketing Alliance. He has helped over 80 companies adopt Agile marketing, including organizations as diverse as T-Mobile, Salesforce, Best Buy Canada, and others. Jim is also the author of The Six Disciplines of Agile Marketing.

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