There has been lots of talk about the “agile mindset,” but what does that mean? It does not merely encompass the skills that make a successful agile team member, but rather what drives a person to want to be part of an agile team. It should include the quest to learn (even when you fail) and leveraging what you learn to continuously improve on what you do.
Definition of Agile Mindset
A mindset is a set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by groups of people that is so established that it creates a powerful incentive within these people to continue to adopt or accept prior behaviors, choices, or tools. Simply put, it is a way of thinking about things that those in a group share or have in common to the point that it becomes a way of life.
There are several characteristics I believe make up the agile mindset:
- Positive attitude
- Thirst for knowledge
- Goal of team success
- Willingness to fail
To me, an agile mindset is "There is no failure, only feedback." It's about taking everything as lessons, adjusting actions according to the feedback, and proceeding toward desired outcomes, resulting in continuous improvement.
The ideal is for everyone to have what the team decides is its collective agile mindset, but that all starts with the individual. I have worked with some great people who I think embody this mindset. They attack their work with a positive attitude, providing suggestions to overcome obstacles. They ask questions to understand what is in the best interests of the business, often coming up with innovative solutions as they experiment. They have realistic and practical attitudes focused on helping the team succeed.
When looking for people to be part of my agile teams, these are the mindsets I look for. It is difficult to change people’s intrinsic personalities and ways of thinking, so it is important to get the right selection of people for your team.
There are always challenges on projects; people are human and make mistakes, and everything is not always going to go well. What is most important is how the team members deal with these situations.
As issues are identified, they need to be dealt with in a timely manner with a positive attitude. In most cases something that may look negative can be turned into an opportunity for improvement. I expect my team to recognize problems—or, even better, potential risks—quantify them, and come up with suggestions for solutions.
For people new to agile, self-management is often difficult. This is where keeping a positive attitude is so important. Some of the things they try may not always work, but they should not give up. It is easy to become downhearted, but instead, team members should keep in mind that they have learned something.