What is an agile mindset?
The agile mindset is the cultural basis for an agile organization. On the way from a classic to an agile organization, not only agile methods and frameworks are important, but also a cultural change. The introduction of agile ways of working also needs the change towards the agile mindset to really deliver the promised success.
The agile mindset is a basic attitude that is important for the impact and success of agile ways of working.
Agile ways of working ensure that many basic principles of collaboration change. In order for these principles to work, the people involved need a basic attitude that promotes these principles. For example, agile working methods ensure that more decision-making powers are transferred from managers or individual roles into the hands of teams. This allows decisions to be made more quickly because they have short lines of communication and the experts decide. This means more assumption of responsibility by each individual and more decision delegation for leadership roles. For this, team members need courage and self-commitment to make these decisions themselves. The leaders - who have previously made decisions themselves - need trust and respect to leave these decisions to the teams and accept them.
Agile values as the foundation of the agile mindset.Frequently, agile values are mentioned as a description of the agile mindset - strictly speaking, these are the values that are defined in the official Scrum Guide are named as Scrum values: Focus, Courage, Respect, Commitment and Openness. These are the values that each individual should bring to the collaboration.
Theory X and Y as a description of a basic attitude.
The X-Y theory developed by the American MIT professor is often used to describe the agile mindset. It describes 2 basic types of motivation. Theory X describes people who are passive by principle and avoid work. Therefore they have to be motivated or sanctioned by external incentives. Many management instruments in classic organizations, such as individual goals, small-scale instructions, controls and punishments, fit this description. In contrast, Theory Y describes people who are intrinsically motivated. They want to do good work, apply themselves and take responsibility. All they need is the right environment. This view of people fits well with the agile mindset. In this world, people in leadership roles ask themselves what they need to do to create the right environment for their teams. They are servant leaders.
How can I recognize an agile mindset?
When you work with teams, it becomes apparent pretty quickly whether or not an agile mindset is prevalent in their daily lives. When you throw a task into the room of an agile team, everyone - regardless of their orientation - starts to address the problem. They start organizing themselves and creating solutions. They are aware that the first solution may not be the best, but they have confidence that they will get better and better through loops of learning and improvement. If the team comes from a traditional organization, the approach is usually more cautious. They may first realize that no one on the team is an expert on the problem. Then they often discuss which approach would be best - after all, you don't want to make a mistake or create a suboptimal solution. When you come back to the teams after an hour, the agile team has already created solutions, which they demonstrate and openly ask for feedback. The classically minded team has discussed the best solution in the same amount of time, but has not yet delivered a result.
An agile mindset fosters a positive environment where solutions are quickly possible.
Why do the teams behave so differently? Because they have had different experiences in their organizations that shape their behavior. In a traditional organization, teams learn that there is an expectation to develop the perfect solution immediately and that mistakes are not tolerated. Often they have learned that they are given explicit instructions before they get started on a task. Only individuals in such an organization develop the courage to step forward without instruction or explicit permission. In an organization with a stronger agile mindset, teams are encouraged to take responsibility themselves and create solutions in a self-organized way. They have learned that they will not be punished if the solution is not perfect. Instead, they have learned that this is completely normal. They know that they can improve their working methods and solutions in learning and improvement loops. For this, the organization needs an environment that promotes and supports this attitude.
Agile coaches bring experience and support the development of the agile mindset in the organization.
An agile mindset is not so easy to learn. It concerns attitude or culture and thus behavior learned through experience. This is usually very deeply rooted in us. You could say it has migrated to the spinal cord and when we get into unfamiliar or stressful situations, our spinal cord takes over without making a detour to the head. The key here is to address these deeply ingrained reactions and behaviors. This is helped by someone who can clearly identify these behaviors and put their finger on them. This is agile coach. With a lot of experience, this person is also able to quickly identify and address the resistance and obstacles - e.g. framework conditions that tend to support theory X - in the organization.
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