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Can anything be learned about the practice of an art, except by practicing it?
Erich Fromm

If you see agility as an “art” then you might have some reasons to read what follows! Practicing an art it’s not that simple! And practicing and demonstrating agility is not simple either! To my experience there are no prescribed steps that if followed will help, you, your teams and your organization to get the benefits of being agile.

For sure there are many guidelines, there are many frameworks trying to give solutions in different problems, there are many courses and certifications and hundreds of books that could help someone to get some knowledge but these are not enough. Each one of us is different and each context has it’s own specific needs. What worked in one context it’s hard to meet the needs of another one.

To get the benefits of being agile there is one and only way. You need to practice agility in your own context! And as in every art, practicing agility has certain requirements or preconditions that could be considered prior starting with. These requirements and preconditions might be helpful for all of you that you are not expecting the “10 steps to master agility” and you are willing to follow the hard way, the way that will require effort to practice, to experiment and to commit in continuous learning and improvement

Agility requires discipline. If you are willing to demonstrate and get the benefits of agility in your specific work context you need to practice the various agile practices in a disciplined way. You will not master agility if you are not following the rules when you start experimenting with the various practices. You might feel that this is not very agile but learning new stuff requires a certain degree of discipline. There are so many practices you can start experimenting and as an advice you can try those first that might help you get some quick wins. Those practices that might resolve your first observed bottlenecks in your system.

Keep in mind that if you practice them when you are in the “right” mood, when you have time, when there is no crisis it might be fun but you will never master the art of agility. You need to insist applying the various practices even in hard times even if when it’s hard to see the anticipated benefits.

Experiment with various practices in a disciplined way for as long as it is needed to create new wires on your brain and new habits! Feeling comfortable with the practices will give you the space to reflect on the outcome and think of improvements and adaptations closely to your specific context and needs.

Agility requires focus. As with every art, while practicing agility you need to be focused and concentrated on what you are doing and why you are doing. It’s really important to observe while you are experimenting with the various practices, reflect on the outcome and try always to learn either from positive or negative ones.

To keep your focus try not to start many things in parallel. Focus on a few vital practices as said that might help you get some quick wins and resolve your first bottlenecks, instead of starting a wide and complex program aiming to resolve all of your problems. Thing big, but focus on those small steps and on a few initiatives otherwise you will end up starting so many things and evaluating just a few or even get lost while trying to manage complex systems like humans, teams and organizations.

Agility requires patience. If you have ever tried to master an art you might already know that you need time and patience.  And agility requires your patience. It’s about creating new habits and change your mindset on the way you have learned in getting things done. The agile manifesto requires this shift on your mindset and the practices related to this new mindset requires effort and patience. Changing people’s mindset and expecting them to learn and create new habits,  requires time.

It’s a common belief that we are wasting our time if we are not seeing quickly some benefits of the new things that we are trying or learn. We are impatient! And for that reason many agile initiatives are abandoned when the first dysfunctions are observed or when the benefits are taking longer than expected. So patience is crucial to master agility and get at the end the benefits of it.

Agility requires a great concern. If you are not seeing agility as something really important for yourself, your  teams and your organization you might become good but you will never master it! Agility requires passion, continuous learning and improvement,  learning from either success or failures, resilience, commitment, empathy  and strong interest from all those that are involved and affected!

Discipline, focus, patience and great concern could be seen as the requirements to master agility and the get the benefits of it. You need to keep these preconditions in your mind prior starting practicing agility. It’s not a few steps that need to be followed to reach a destination, it’s a journey that you are devoted to it. You need  continuous practice to keep your self, teams and organization “fit” and ready to adapt to emerged needs!

Mastering the art of agility it’s a journey worth to take it!

.nikos

inspiring reading

zen in the art of archery

the art of loving

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I find my self often observing and reflecting what i am doing as an agile coach, trying to better understand my current role. I didn’t have these kind of “worries” with my previous roles and positions as a research telecom engineer, developer and project coordinator. It was just enough to follow my job/role description meet the expectations and measure the impact of my effort! I wasn’t worried about since all these different role responsibilities where close to my thinking and belief!

Why these kind of “worries” surfaced with my current role, even if there are plenty of resources and books that describe what an agile coach should do and custom made role descriptions, responsibilities and expectations written in many pages? What has changed?

In my journey to self-awareness through the lenses of my current role, i realised that i had to work deeper in my own paradigm shift. I was needing a new belief, a radical change on my thinking from an accepted point of view, established for years with certain habits,  to a new thinking  and a new set of habits.

From trying to be the best at what i was doing and resisting to change,  to start experimenting, fail, expose my inabilities, feeling comfortable to challenge my comfort zone

From an expert and having an advanced knowledge on specific areas, to a more “generalist”, trying to cover a wide area of skills and competencies.

From adherence to specific role requirements, to focus more in  becoming a team player, collaborating and contributing to the whole effort.

From seeing, monitoring and easily measuring results, to feel comfortable with long-term payoffs not necessary measurable.

From getting and keeping control, in becoming a team and trust builder while creating the conditions whereby people could grow, develop, fail, learn, synergize in achieving their higher purpose.

I had to work on my own motive system as well. Power and status, to name a few motives, had to change to match the expectations of my new role. Establishing, maintaining or restoring “healthy” relationships among the team members, understand their needs and commit to help them achieve their goals, is what motivates me now! I use my experience and knowledge to teach, mentor, coach people, help them applying agile practices, and let them grow, shift their own paradigm and enjoy their journey!

Trying to shift to a new paradigm as an agile coach is not happening from day one. Commitment, awareness, continuous observations, reflections, adaptations and effort to develop and grow new habits is needed. It’s a long journey that worth to take it!

.nikos

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the power of self-dependence 

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the professional helper

why

It’s one of the questions i was thinking when i was invited to support a startup event that took place recently during a weekend. Is there any greater cause, a belief  behind a startup idea? Or is it just the what these ideas are trying to respond? a solution to an identified problem? Is there any applicability of Simon SInek’s Golden Circle in the startup world?

Having that in mind I’ve made the hypothesis that the awareness of the golden circle could help enthusiast start-uppers to set the basis for greater things!

To experiment my hypothesis i’ve used some time with the formed groups after pitching their ideas, to make them aware of the golden circle and trigger them during the event with thinking questions to help them shape their greater cause!

It was amazing to see people drawing their golden circle, talk about and watch Simon Sinek’s TED talk and trying to  find their purpose! ThesKoulouri is not about a famous product in our city enhanced with more flavours, it’s about living an experience, tuneDeck is not about controlling your music while driving it is about driving in safety, easyReader main belief is that everyone should be able to enjoy reading, repairIT would like to re-imagine and redesign the future of craftsmen and craftsmanship! I am not sure if these teams and many others, found their greater cause but the good thing is that they thought about it!

IMHO reflecting on that weekend and on the hypothesis i’ve made, i could say  that the clarity of why is important for the future of any startup. It is true that everything is starting with a simple idea to solve an existing problem but it is worth to dive into deeper for long term benefits and sustainability!

You might agree that knowing your why could be a start, but for sure it’s not enough to move forward! Especially during an intensive weekend, formed groups have a lot of things to consider, from research up to their first mock-ups! It is important for that reason to know how to organise their work, prioritise their tasks, identify their impediments and their needs! A few concrete methods could be found in this material i’ve shared during the event!

it was my first time i’ve joined a startup event and it was a great experience that for sure i would like to live it again! A bing “thank you” to all participants, mentors and for sure the organising committee that made the StartUpLive event in thessaloniki  happen!

start your startup because you believe in a greater cause!

.nikos

inspirational talk

Simon Sinek – Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

growthmindset

…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?

.nikos

inspirational keynote

Linda Rising, The Power of an Agile Mindset

39-41

It seems challenging to start your own blog and share thoughts, experiences with a wider audience than your own-self and maybe this is my main intention. To be honest it is the curiosity how all this interaction will work!

There is also another side effect. I know that what i have thought, what i have experienced is logged somewhere and it’s not only inside my head! (great relief!)

It is good to have the intention, you need that motivation, but this is not enough. You have to “start doing” and it is well known that this is the most difficult part (no exception for my case)

Being motivated enough not to quit prior even starting,  the right moment to write my first post came yesterday!

The following dialogue is a true dialogue between our older daughter and us (her parents)

child: mom, dad even today that kid told me that he will bite me!

parents: and how did you react?

child: i told him that this was not a nice behavior, but he didn’t care and repeated that he will bite me again

parents: next time that he will tell you such a thing tell him that you will tell it to your teacher..she will take care of this!

child: ok!

parents: if he is not changing his behavior tell him that you will further report it  to your kindergarten director and then to your dad. And you can tell him that you will call the police as well!

child: i don’t want to make him feel sad! I think we can help him to become  a good kid

How easy and how often we are escalating issues? How often we help others to become better? How difficult is to act and take ownership of our actions?

Working as agile coach with individuals and teams for a few years, I could share many examples of escalating problems and use a higher level of authority to resolve them,  without spending much time to think!

Maybe next time prior escalating we should slow down and think,

“How could WE help ______ to become better in  _______?”

And when our intention to “help” & “support”  is clear, we should start doing! This is the difficult part!

.nikos

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