Culture Clashes and Speed of Change in Project Environments

Can Agile Transformations Be Forced?


Project Business Management


By Antje Lehmann-Benz

Munich, Germany


In May 2016, the US Department of Homeland Security started a new method of conducting their IT procurement processes. They wanted to be more agile and have less administrative overhead when finding and contracting sellers for the software they needed.

No other than a former Google employee actually helped design the new method and together with his team, they coined the new program “FLASH” (FLexible Agile Support for the Homeland). Eric Hysen wrote about the entire experience from his perspective in an insightful article on Medium.

As it turned out, FLASH really was something new and direly needed in a government office like the DHS. Like any other government institution probably all over the world, they were experiencing delays and long waiting times in their projects including procurements, due to security regulations, regulations, protocols, and last but not least, democratic processes to be followed.

Because expertise is mostly found in private companies, IT projects for government branches are usually answered with ‘buy’, not with ‘make’ decisions[1].

Procurement processes can be tedious and complicated, like in many larger organizations in the private sector as well.

In contrast to those, government institutions have an additional problem: They have to be transparent and as democratic as possible in their work. This means, if sellers are unhappy about not having been chosen after bid submission, they can file an official protest, thus forcing everyone involved to investigate and reconsider the decision.

Of course, this is actually a good thing. To a degree, it prevents companies from being chosen as contractors in projects where the decision is already made before the bidding process even starts. It is meant to ensure a fair competition. Like many aspects of democracies, it can be misused.

Companies can file protests because they think something was intransparent or unfair, as is the actual intention behind this kind of action

They can also file protests if they are incumbents, however, to gain more time and more income as active contractors until they are released from their contracts and replaced by others. Lastly, they can file protests in an attempt to get into a project this way after all, no matter what.

The FLASH program saw a number of such protests, so much so that it caused a significant slow-down of progress and ultimately, overall project cancellation. Understandably, this caused a lot of frustration in the team that had done a lot of work with the intention to turn these new procurement and software development processes into reality.

Culture Clashes And Speed Of Change As Sources Of Problems In Projects

In this case story, there are two major factors at play that cause difficulties in projects all the time:


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Editor’s note: This article is one in a series based on the book “Situational Project Management: The Dynamics of Success and Failure” (ISBN 9781498722612), by Oliver Lehmann and published by Auerbach / Taylor & Francis in 2016.

How to cite this paper: Lehmann-Benz, A. (2018).  Culture Clashes and Speed Of Change in Project Environments: Can Agile Transformations Be Forced? PM World Journal, Volume VII, Issue IX – September.  Available online at https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/pmwj74-Sep2018-Lehmann-Benz-Culture-Clashes-and-Speed-of-Change.pdf


About the Author

Antje Lehmann-Benz

Munich, Germany




Antje Lehmann-Benz, MA, PMP, PMI-ACP, PSM is a project management and agile training professional for Oliver F. Lehmann Project Management Training, working with various training providers.  Recent experience includes:

  • Since 2017: Lecturer at the Technical University Munich, teaching Scrum Fundamentals to PhD candidates in Informatics
  • 2017: Agile training for a US military institution in Germany
  • 2018: Online PMP preparation training sessions for a global telecommunications company
  • Since 2018: Scrum trainer for a German car manufacturer
  • Since app. 2009: Project management and Scrum practitioner, consultant in the semiconductor and IoT industries (Atlassian JIRA / Confluence implementations)

She is also active as a volunteer for the Project Management Institute Southern Germany Chapter e.V. (Editor-in-chief, chapter magazine “PMI SG Live”; Director at Large for English Speaking Meetings in Munich). Active in 2016-2017 for PMI International as Subject Matter Expert regarding specific industry experience.

Magister Artium in linguistics, (M.A., LMU Munich), Antje holds the following certifications: PMI-ACP, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (http://www.pmi.org); PSM, Professional Scrum Master (http://www.scrum.org); PMP Project Management Professional (http://www.pmi.org)

She can be contacted at [email protected]


[1]  Find more on the concept of make-or-buy decisions here