Agile Mindset: a Daily Practice, Not a Destination
December is that period of the year that reminds us to sit back and reflect on the year that is about to end. When it comes to the field of work, we can’t help but wonder to what extent things have changed forever.
If I had to pick one word for 2021, it would be agility, a term I’ve actually heard quite often in different contexts, which I think everyone understands differently.
Although the concept originated 20 years ago in the area of software development, in recent years it has spread rapidly in all directions and taken on new meanings: it is perceived as a new mindset, a new management style and a new way of working.
In fact, a prosperous industry has grown up around this concept as it generated new jobs, specific training and certification programs.
The trait of agility helps an organization to adapt and integrate easily and quickly into developments and changes that occur in the market, which, we must admit, many organizations have done so over the last couple of years.
The agile organization has a flatter hierarchical structure, recognizes the importance of continually adapting and gives individuals the opportunity to influence the processes. In short, it creates the perfect atmosphere for employees to come up with innovations and ideas that lead to work efficiency.
As a management style, it is based on innovation, collaboration, customer focus and learning. This means giving up traditional working styles and bureaucracy, as well as old control mechanisms and top-down communication style.
The agile mindset makes teams put aside their egos and focus on collaboration. In an agile organization there is intense communication and transparency. Information flows easily and arrives at the right time, the environment is safe, employees can voice their concerns, while the management empowers them to make decisions and take action.
Like any tool designed to bring transformation to the organization, it cannot work without people and managing a more agile workforce can be a challenge for managers used to a different management style.
In an agile working environment, employees have the freedom to organize their own schedules and know that they are accountable for the outcome of the projects they are involved in.
This means less dependence on management, which is not easy to accept and implement.
While the agile mindset comes with many benefits, it is also the hardest aspect to change and implement because it requires a lot of participation, presence and individual effort. Let’s not forget that it is the mindset that has held many organizations back and which needed a crisis to embrace more flexible approaches.
The biggest mistake when it comes to transformation is that the cultural and management implications are often ignored. Who has a disproportionate impact when it comes to culture if not management?
This implies that it is not enough that changes aim only at how teams work but also the way the management operates, acts and behaves.
Since attitude can be a barrier to introducing agile working, here are some aspects for management to keep in mind:
- To know that it doesn’t have all the answers;
- choose to start from a position of confidence;
- understand that motivation is key to adopting a new style of working and an unengaged employee needs support;
- manage the lack of enthusiasm for taking on new agile roles or joining agile teams;
- cultivate critical thinking, which is a competitive advantage of the agile organization;
- know that an unengaged and unmotivated employee puts less effort into finding solutions;
- take care to create a space for learning and testing and understands that experimentation is part of the process;
- know that learning is not just about developing skills;
- accept the risks and mistakes that come with the transition period;
- consider how career paths change;
- support employees as they transition to a new way of working;
- become aware of old patterns of thinking and habits carried over from the traditional way of management;
- allocate time for reflection (not just at the end of the year);
- use their experience and know-how but is aware that what works in one company/with one team does not work in another
Learning by doing is not necessarily easy, neither for employees nor for management. Even when you have all the tools, methodologies, principles and frameworks at your fingertips, implementing them can be difficult, precisely because no change can take place if the way of thinking stays the same.