AGILE…Methodology or Mindset?

Agile is a mindset; it is an established set of attitudes and habits about how to succeed at getting work done.  Wow, what a concept!  At a recent Agile New England meeting, Ahmed Sidky, PH.D applied the mindset research of Carol Dweck PH.D to agile transformations.   He defines the “Agile Mindset” as a growth mindset; an approach to managing uncertainty by learning as much as possible in the most efficient way possible.

As organizations adopt agile, they may begin by doing agile, following the practices as in Shu.  They may move on to Ha and break the rules, beginning to adapt agile methodologies and practices to their own needs.  However, Dr. Sidky argues that true agile exists in Ri.  An organization only becomes agile when it collectively internalizes the mindset, the four agile values and twelve guiding principles and then chooses the right the practices and methodologies that meet the needs of the individual situations. 

I think the “agile mindset” has lots of practical applications in many areas of software development.  Whether or not an organization is attempting an “agile transformation”, encouraging an agile mindset can only improve the software development process, no matter what methodology and tool set is used.  For example, if we encourage developers to ask for feedback early from testers and business analysts, we begin to build a culture of collaboration.  When we encourage testers to perform exploratory testing and to submit what they see as bugs even though these observations are not strictly deviations from specifications, we are encouraging continuous learning. 

When an organization builds an “agile mindset”, it has developed a foundation for commitment not only for an agile transformation but also for other types of organizational change, whether these changes involve reorganizations, geographically distributed teams or even mergers and acquisitions. 

Just as agile development practices have dramatically improved the speed and quality of software development, I think the “agile mindset” has the potential make the same dramatic impact on organizational change management.


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