Do You Have the Agile Mindset?

brain-1295128_960_720I make the mistake sometimes, when someone asks me what they think about their particular industry and how can they adopt Agile, of thinking of different Agile frameworks and trying to find one that fits for them. This is probably not the best way to approach Agile adoption. I think this is more of a result of not knowing their industry and just trying to give them ideas of things they could look into.

What I should be asking them is, “What is wrong with the way you do things now?”

nothing-1820481_960_720.jpgYou can always find something wrong, it may not be an easy answer to find. Part of Agile is coming up with a way of finding that answer. Be proactive and look for problems, rather than wait for them to materialize.

It may require changing the way you think about things. You might have a process in place that seems to work fine, such as bulk ordering in construction to save money on purchasing costs. If the money you save from bulk ordering is routinely eaten up by the cost of storage, damage, loss of time moving stored goods out of your way, or other losses associated with it, it may be better to move to a system where you order what you need for a given period of time.

I should also ask them, “Are you comfortable admitting when you are wrong?”

bird-1849269_960_720I am not always jumping up and down to admit I was wrong. It can be a struggle. When I am so sure something would work and I spent weeks trying to convince people my plan was right… and it turned out I was wrong, I don’t really like that. I don’t think anyone does. Part of being Agile though is recognizing when you are wrong and working to adapt. To adapt, you have to admit.

You have to drop your ego some to be Agile. When something isn’t working as you expected, the first step is recognizing it, the second step is admitting it. For an added third step, work to figure out how to make it right.

To add to that further, you may also have to ask for help. Agile is about the team coming together to find the best solutions. This may mean you have to “eat crow” and ask the person who was against your idea for help finding a better solution.

If it is another employee coming to you asking for help fixing an idea you were against, you can’t say, “I told you so.” This can be a big struggle if the path forward was really clear to you, but you failed to convince others and make it clear for them. Your initial instinct (at least for me) seems to want to point out your original objections. Try not to do that, it can make them less likely to want to come to you in the future for help and it can mess up team cohesiveness. (*Plus, they will hate you)

Something else I should ask them “Can you look objectively at a situation?”

microscope-3536527_960_720.jpgCan you ignore your emotions to analyze a situation without bias? If you answer complaints against Donald Trump with criticisms of Hillary Clinton or complaints against Hillary Clinton with criticisms of Donald Trump – you probably need to answer no to that question.

Why do I say that? Well, criticisms and complaints, like all things, need to be addressed on their own terms. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are two separate people with two separate histories. Criticism against one doesn’t mean an endorsement of the other.  It is possible to despise both. It is also possible to like both. It is also possible to have complaints against one and still like them. You are not addressing the complaint when you answer with a counter complaint that has nothing to do with the original complaint. You are letting your emotions rule you in favor of objectivity.

You need to make the best choices you can with the information available. This requires investigation; examining a problem and attempting to discover the source and possible solution without pre-conceived notions.

Experience can be a guide here. If, in your experience, you have found that a problem is caused by something – pursue that avenue first, but be open to the possibility of other causes. Be willing to share that experience, but also be aware that the specific situation could be beyond the scope of your experience.

If you have no experience with a situation, rely on your team to help. That is what they are there for. A team should be greater than the sum of its parts, and that cannot happen if you go it alone all the time as a team of 1.

Using your best judgment doesn’t mean going it alone based on your gut feelings. It means following the evidence as far as you can and making the best choice based on limited knowledge. We will call it, better than a guess, not quite as good as a clear fact.

And I should probably ask them, “Do you know why you do things the way you do?”

road-sign-464659_960_720.jpgNot only is, “because we have always done it this way” a bad reason to keep doing things a certain way – it also isn’t a valid reason to stop doing things the way you have always done them. Look for the better way first. Whether it be a new way, or the old way – find the reasons why something is what it is.

Just because you have done things the same way for 100 years is not a reason to get rid of it or to keep it – you need to figure out the better way. Some people see an old process and think it should be changed automatically because it is old. That isn’t always the case.


The truth is, Agile doesn’t require the use of a framework. It requires a certain mindset to start with, then action based on that mindset. You have to work for the best possible solution, and be willing to change course or adapt if it becomes clear that a course correction is needed.

You can do that with or without an Agile framework. The framework just provides a structure that can help one do Agile; but without the right mindset, you can never be Agile.





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Categories: Agile

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