#2 :: Agile Organisations need an Agile Mindset


…if there is one thing agile has brought to the table it’s the realization of how   important that “fluffy people” stuff is,  and how we need to pay attention…

Linda Rising

In 2011 Linda Rising gave a keynote talk on “The Power of an Agile Mindset”. She talked about the differences in mindsets that people have and the impacts of those mindsets in work and  life. She talked about the attitude that we could have to overcome failures and problems and how to transform them to opportunities and learnings. This attitude is what she called an “Agile Mindset”.

Looking on the 7th VersionOne annual report on agile development,  organisations are moving to agile in order to accelerate time to market and  to be able to  manage change priorities.  The main benefits they have seen according to that report, are an increased ability to manage changing priorities and an increased productivity. On the other hand there are a few interesting findings related to the reasons why agile projects are failing. Among the top leading causes are company culture at odds with agile valuespressure to follow traditional waterfall processescommunication problemslack of cultural transition and unwillingness of teams to follow agile! Apart from the above causes there are a few barriers and concerns such as a general resistance to changeinability to change organisation’s culture, lack of upfront planingloss of management control and opposed teams and management to change!

Reflecting on these findings, and being part of an organisation that is being transformed,  two simple questions came to my mind. why there are organisations that succeed with the agile adoption,  get all the benefits of being agile and continuously improve? Why there are others that are struggling to transform to an agile organisation?

Is there any connection with the attitude we have when dealing with all these challenges? Is there any connection with the mindset we have when we and our organisations are changing?

According to Linda Rising work and related research the mindset determines our goals, our reaction to failure, our belief about effort and strategies, and our attitudes towards other’s successes! Based on the research there are two types of mindset, fixed and what Linda Rising named agile mindset.

People with fixed mindset believe that they have a fixed amount of talent, intelligence or ability and they tend to set goals that show how good they are on what they are doing. For these people failure is an impression of lack of talent or ability! Feeling uncomfortable with failure these people are more skeptical in taking new challenges that might expose their inability, so they are not willing to attract new opportunities and learn. They would like to “look good” , “perfect” and they believe that effort is good but for those with lack of talent!

People with agile mindset set goals, they have failures and they are facing challenges as well! But the way they are reacting is different. Their  goal is to learn! They believe that the talent, ability, intelligence are like muscles and there is need to put a lot of effort to grow them!  Their main belief is that effort is the path to mastery! They care more of the learning behind their successes or their failures rather than just knowing if they have failed or not on sth. Not only do they embrace new challenges and changes as it is an opportunity for them to learn and get improved but also they have an increased ability to recover quickly from any failed attempt!

Going back to the initial questions, related to the reasons there are organisations that succeed with agile while others are failing, seems that there might be a connection of success factor with the mindset an organisation has, the mindset that is formed of its people! Fixed mindset organisations goal is to “look good” and “perfect” to keep their status. As long as they believe they have the ability to deal with any new challenge they will take it but there is no talk about effort needed, mistakes and failures that might happen. Fixed mindset organisations will resist in any new change if this change might expose their inabilities and might trigger failures! On the other hand the goal of agile mindset organisation is to learn, to attract new challenges and to experiment with new practices!  Organisations with an agile mindset do not afraid to fail, they learn from failures and put the effort needed to get improved. Their abilities could grow as long as they work on them!

And maybe this is the answer! Maybe succeeding organisations, are more comfortable to adopt and explore new practices and discard practices that worked well in the past. Maybe succeeding organisations know that agile software development process, as Linda Rising mentioned, is not fixed, but it continues to change as we learn more about it. Both organisation and people with an agile mindset are aware that there is need to put significant effort to succeed with agile!

Concluding the good think is that our mindset could shift from fixed to a more agile! How to do that? Start by spreading the word about the agile mindset! Watch Linda’s Rising keynotes, organise workshops, discuss it with your teams and your people in your organisation. Being aware of the two different mindset, then practice, observe yourself your teams your organisation how you all react whenever there is a new challenge. Step back and before take a decision, think that you have a choice, either react with a fixed mindset approach or an agile one! Try to react from an agile mindset perspective! Embrace change as an opportunity to learn! See failure as feedback that provide useful information and instead of ignoring it, discuss or even teach others that failing is a way to learn and improve! Praise effort!

“Perfect is a verb!” – Kent Beck

“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.” – Winston Churchill

what do you think?


inspirational keynote

Linda Rising, The Power of an Agile Mindset


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