Cultivating the Agile Mindset


Someone explained to me how agile and Scrum are not perfect. One thing they can do however is revealing your problems. Some organizations do a good job of hiding the problem or pretending it doesn’t exist. I spoke to an executive recently about a project that had you might say, “gone off the rails.” As I asked questions I could see this project had no real management. People were just working on random things.

Someone suggested trying agile to fix this. I gave a few suggestions but, I wondered how this might work. It seemed they want a miracle worker, not a project management methodology. The executive stated how the person who was going to lead needed to essentially command and boss the team around to complete tasks. It got me to thinking how far away that is from an agile leader and mindset. Command and control are diametrically opposed to the self-organizing team we strive for on many agile teams.

Utility Players

As an avid Cubs fan I have many favorites. Last year though one player was quite versatile. Ben Zobrist helped the Cubs in the field and with his bat last year to win the World Series. Baseball has a long history of utility players who can play different positions. Agile teams need similar people who are willing to help out and complete the work in the sprint. A specialist can be helpful but, they need to share their knowledge with others.

Servant Leader

Agile teams need to be served by a leader that trusts them to have the right answers. Recently I interviewed Pollyanna Pixton for the Agile Online Summit. She repeatedly stated how leaders need to trust first with their team. I feel that is an imperative for the servant leaders who guide the agile team. Simply being part of an agile team requires this mindset. How can you serve your teammates? If you want them to have your back you need to start with trust.

Willingness to Try

I am now north of forty and I can see myself becoming comfortable with things. I have always prided myself on being willing to change. Every one of us can get in a comfort zone and not want to grow out. Agile teams require people to try things they may not be good at. Jason was on my Scrum team a few years ago. He had more administrator experience. He was willing to try to learn to code. He jumped in and paired with people. His good attitude and willingness to try helped him transition to a new position. Today he works as an agile developer at a new company. I am proud of his attitude and mindset.

Learner

The Agile Manifesto states how we need to respond to change. Learning is a cornerstone to the agile mindset. From retrospectives and feedback from customers, we need to learn and adapt. This I think is the competitive advantage for agile methods over traditional waterfall approaches. We increase the feedback loops to learn continuously from all stakeholders.

Frame of Mind

As I work with more agile people I learn important aspects of the frame of mind they have. Having an open mind is helpful. You may think you have the right solution. People can come up with new ideas that may work better. Jared was new to our team and shared some interesting suggestions. Ken was a senior member of the team and was skeptical. We tried a few of Jared’s suggestions and it really helped.

No Jerks

Many startups have the rule “No Jerks Allowed.” This sounds good in theory but, it could be hard to put in place. What it takes is the team to define what “Jerk” behavior is. Then from there we need to be ready to enforce it. I would say I have honestly worked with very few jerks. Some of us have a bad day every now and then. That seems different. A true “Jerks” are almost always a problem. Jerks can be really good at something and managers and teams can sometimes look the other way.

The agile mindset takes time to develop. It also takes many characteristics. We need to be willing to play many positions and meet the team goals. Serving your teammates can show you care. As we learn each of our teammates preferences we can that engaged team member everyone looks for.

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