Business as usual isn’t good enough for organizations in the digital age.
In today’s world, a slight change in the existing business ecosystem can have massive repercussions for the people, processes, and technologies involved.
Organizations that refuse to adopt an Agile mindset can jeopardize their entire business. Recent occurrences in the world, including the pandemic, financial troubles, civil unrests, etc., have shown that organizations must react effectively to change.
With that in mind, let’s focus on the fourth Agile value in the Agile Manifesto: Responding to change over planning. Adopting a change mentality means adopting an Agile mindset.
What is the Agile mindset?
The Agile mindset refers to a collection of attitudes that enables a successful Agile working environment. Respect, teamwork, improvement and learning cycles, pride in ownership, a focus on producing value, and the ability to adapt to change are all examples of this mindset.
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The Agile mindset focuses on being nimble, innovative, and creative. It involves envisioning new ways to solve problems, render services and deliver more functional products to customers. It suggests working in small teams and collaborating with the customer and other functional teams. This is in stark contrast to the traditional mindset of following rigid principles and fixed requirements aimed solely at increasing shareholder value.
The Agile mindset says the customer wins or the business loses.
Although the creators of the Agile Manifesto had software development in mind, this mindset can be applied to almost any industry.
The Agile mindset plays a vital role in responding to change. A good example of this is Uber’s initiative of implementing a mask-wearing policy for all its users due to the pandemic. Knowing that face masks were compulsory apparel, and without enforcing this rule, these businesses weren’t allowed to operate, Uber implemented a policy for both drivers and passengers compelling them to wear masks. This change helped allay customers’ fears and allowed Uber to project itself as a company with health and safety awareness. Another example would be businesses switching to remote working as opposed to onsite working.
Here are five tips to help you embrace the Agile mindset:
1. Adopt a lean approach
This can also mean doing more with less. Prioritize deliverables and focus on building teams with only the required resources necessary to do the task. Where there is a knowledge or skill gap, balance the gap by either training the resource on the go or identifying a resource with the required skill and assigning the knowledgeable resource the task. In the case of product delivery, a customer’s initial request might have included a feature that’s not practically feasible. Find new ways to replace it with a more functional feature. A lean approach doesn’t mean cutting corners but reducing wastage.
2. Support incremental improvements
When there is a need for change, ensure that the change aims to deliver value to customers. Remember that Agile also focuses on minimizing waste; therefore, any increment in a product’s state must add value. Over time, these increments will reflect a whole new idea, product, or service with more tangible value for the customer. Therefore, teams must be encouraged to go about product delivery in increments, and these increments must show value for the invested resources.
3. Allow teams to innovate
Teams must be allowed to innovate and infuse fresh ideas to improve their products and services. In the traditional bureaucratic model, teams followed rigid plans and could only make changes after the final product was done. On the other hand, in a similar scenario, a team with the Agile mindset works in small increments and consistently makes changes based on formal requests and feedback.
4. Encourage end-to-end feedback
Implementing a robust feedback mechanism is a must for adopting the Agile mindset. This means being open to suggestions and ideas, not just from the team members but also from other teams and customers. It’s important to encourage the team members to be responsive and not defensive to feedback throughout product development.
Receiving feedback without reservations is a harder skill to teach than delivering it. It is natural to grow defensive if a team member lacks diplomacy or is overly critical. However, constructive feedback is far easier to accept as its goal is to improve rather than criticize.
Therefore, in addition to creating a feedback mechanism, it’s also important to coach teammates on giving and receiving feedback.
Also, you should encourage review sessions and follow up on its outcomes. Every review should solicit feedback from team members and stakeholders to develop these skills and obtain critical feedback. If all the stakeholders are silent, the team must take an active role in eliciting comments. For example, they can suggest that each participant takes a turn to give feedback before the meeting concludes.
5. Prioritize collaboration over cooperation
In Agile, team cooperation almost implies working in isolation. Agile teams must collaborate. Collaboration allows for input from other functional teams and customers. Teams cannot be isolated to be Agile and must be willing to communicate with one another and across other departments. Perhaps another team has skills that could be useful for a project, or maybe the customer has an idea on how to improve the product in development before it gets into testing. Such relationships will help build the Agile mindset while also creating a better product or service.
Any team willing to adopt the Agile mindset will experience issues, and that’s why understanding the recipe for building it is important. Remember, issues will arise; but, with adequate and frequent feedback, your team will be able to ask the right questions and come up with solutions to forge ahead.