We have been hearing from clients repeatedly that they need to become more “agile” to survive in the market.

Agility is not an “all fit one” solution. Before we get into the topic of agile Mindset in detail, I would like to classify which situations / organisational contexts agility really makes sense.

The Stacey Matrix:

With the help of the Stacey Matrix, I can quickly identify for which situations agility and thus also agile Mindset is the correct answer:

On one axis, we find the challenge, i.e. what needs to be done – on the other axis, we find the how, the way it is done. This results in four starting points for our work.

  • Simple
  • Complicated
  • Complex
  • Chaotic

Source: According to Bernd Austria/Claudia Schröder, the collegially managed company

The often described “VUKA world” is in the realm of “COMPLEX”. It is precisely in this environment that I need agility to be successful. 

Introducing Agile Methods or “Being Agile

When companies want to become more agile, the responsible managers often first consider introducing agile methods in the company and usually hope that the rest will happen by itself. Unfortunately, this is quite a misconception. 

Source: Scheller, On the Way to an Agile Organisation

Being agile or having an agile mindset means acting according to agile values and principles and applying them as necessary, whether in the form of an agile framework such as SCRUM or in the form of regularly working with process and result reviews. 

Introducing an agile method only means working according to specific rules without the meaning behind them being transparent. If a situation requires independent action, in the best case, a new direction is invented to solve the problem. But if this new rule is not based on agile principles, a process model quickly emerges that has very little to do with what we understand by agility. 

The origins of agility

The basis for agile values and principles goes back to the agile manifesto, written in 2001 in Utah, the USA, by 17 thought leaders on the agility topic. At that time, the focus was on software development. Customer requirements were becoming increasingly complex, requirements often changed during the project, and the speed at which software had to be changed was hardly manageable with the traditional “waterfall model”. 

Therefore, this group developed four guiding principles, later known as agile values, and 12 agile principles according to which software should be developed. (Manifesto for Agile Software Development (agilemanifesto.org)

The four guiding principles: 

  • Individuals and interaction are more important than processes and tools.
  • Functioning products are more important than comprehensive documentation.
  • Cooperation with the client is more important than contract negotiations.
  • Reacting to change is more important than following a plan.

If you look at these four guiding principles closely, you can see that they are valid outside software development. However, I would not consider these guiding principles to be classical values. 

These have emerged in the agile world in the following years and come mainly as working principles from well-known agile frameworks such as SCRUM. 

Agile values:

The most critical agile values, which are also essential in the SCRUM framework:

  • Focus: The team concentrates on a few things that need to be delivered at a time to deliver results faster and sooner. 
  • Openness: When working together, staff explain what is being done and what is in the way. Concerns should be addressed to learn from and with each other. 
  • Self-commitment: The team members stand by their tasks and do everything to complete them. They trust each other and support each other when necessary.
  • Courage: agile work involves trying out new things and discarding those that do not work. Failure means learning that a certain way does not work. 
  • Respect: The team members show respect for each other. Everyone can and should contribute. The team decides which way to go. Proposals are measured by whether they work or which work better.

Agile principles:

Agile principles make agile working possible, even without a specific method.

The twelve principles of the agile manifesto:

  • Our highest priority is to 
  • satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  • Hot requirement changes are welcome even late in development. Agile processes use change to the customer’s competitive advantage.
  • Deliver working software regularly within a few weeks or months, preferring a shorter period.
  • Subject matter experts and developers must work together daily during the project.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.
  • The most efficient and effective way to communicate information to and within a development team is face-to-face.
  • Functioning software is the most critical measure of progress.
  • Agile processes promote sustainable development. The clients, developers and users should be able to maintain a steady pace indefinitely.
  • Constant attention to technical excellence and good design promotes agility.
  • Simplicity – the art of maximising the amount of work not done – is essential.
  • Self-organised teams create the best architectures, requirements and designs.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how it can become more effective and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

The following principles are also relevant outside of software development to develop an agile mindset: 

  • Close, continuous cooperation and coordination with the customer are necessary.
  • Through short iterative processes and cyclical work, customer change requests are desired and understood as a competitive advantage. The customer regularly receives functional elements for testing.
  • The project team should be motivated, work together daily, and get the support they need. The focus is on learning.
  • Agile processes promote sustainable development. The client, project team and clients should be able to keep a steady pace. 
  • The teams work in a self-organised way. The team regularly reflects on how it can increase efficiency and effectiveness. 

Agile Mindset

An agile mindset is a set of perspectives that enables us to implement the values, principles and practices of the agile world, to deal productively with the uncertainties and fuzziness that arise in the process. At the same time, it allows us to face the continuous adaptation to dynamics and complexity calmly and healthily. For it is the agile mindset that makes us dynamically robust. “

Source: Projektmanagazin.de

Agile mindset can be learned

Through constant feedback, reflection and exemplifying the agile values and principles, teams can successively develop and expand their agile mindset. 

Would you like to support your teams in becoming “really” agile? Talk to us. We will be happy to advise you. 

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