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Agile is More Than a Mindset

Reading: Agile is More Than a Mindset

Though it’s helpful to have the right mindset when you want to be an Agile organization, actually achieving Agility is going to require more than adopting a mindset or creating a culture.


What’s the operating model that’s going to enable those leaders to behave in the way that we want them to behave? And somebody says, and this is like a really common thing, agile is a mindset. Right? And if you’ve been following my stuff for a long time, this is a little bit of a trigger for me. I’m just warning you, right? So, this idea that agile is a mindset. The other thing that you see quite often is that agile is about culture. Okay? Both of those things are true, but not like primarily true.

The reason why people want to talk about agile as a mindset, is because like we’re going in and we’re saying, okay, we don’t want our leaders to be command and control, and we don’t want our leaders to micromanage and tell the team what to do. And we want our leaders to be open, and adaptive, and responsive to change, okay? And while all of that stuff is true, and all of that stuff feels like a mindset shift, what’s underneath every single thing that I talk about it’s like what you have to do if you want to change mindset. It’s really kinda two things, right? You have to enable the systems that enable different behaviors. And I’ll say behaviors and attitudes, okay?

And one of the examples that I like to talk about it’s like, if you want sales people to cooperate with each other, right? You can’t put them in the same region with competing financial objectives, right? Cause if they’re incented to behave in their own best interests, and they’re compensated to behave in their own best interests, getting cooperative behavior that results in them working against their best interest is not necessarily reasonable, right? So if you want to change a sales person’s mindset to be more collaborative, you have to create an incentive system that enables that level of collaboration.

So if we want to ask our leaders to deliver, or be less command and control, right? We have to put the team into a situation where they don’t need as much structure to achieve the same objectives, right? So, what I’ve been finding myself saying in a lot of different contexts, is that we have to build the systems that perform the way we want them to perform, and then we have to educate our leaders, or our business partners, or our market to exploit that system to their economic advantage. So if I want, you know, it’s a little bit like what we about in the physics of agile stuff, right?

So if we want our leaders to trust the team, then the team has to be trustworthy. Okay? And so, I just wanted to hit that first, because I know a lot of times the things that I’m teaching about and our point of view as a company, they center around things like structure, and governance, and metrics. And the inevitable response with a lot of agilists is to say, well, no, agile is not about that. Agile is a mindset.

Well, all I’m really gonna say is that almost everything that I’m talking about is what are the structures, organizational governance strategies, what are the metrics and controls? Like, what’s the operating model that’s going to enable those leaders to behave in the way that we want them to behave, okay? So that’s like almost every single thing we talked about.

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