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Agile Mindset – What is an agile mindset & why is it so important?

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Agile Mindset – What is an agile mindset & why is it so important?

What is an agile mindset, what are agile values? What is the difference between agile tools, agile methods and agile frameworks?

Do you know that too? Everyone is talking about becoming agile and agility. On the whole, you know what it’s all about – but you don’t know exactly what the terms mean in detail? What is important in all of this? What is important when becoming agile?
How do you manage to adapt yourself and your company to the ever faster changing trends, conditions and customer requirements? Where do you start? What do you need?

It all depends on the agile mindset!

The title gives it away straight away: – It’s the agile mindset that counts. Exactly! Because without an agile mindset, you won’t get very far with the agile transformation of your company. We will be happy to explain why this is the case.

However, companies usually don’t start with the mindset, but somewhere else entirely – and then wonder why agility just doesn’t work.
Our customer Sabine, head of the communications team at a medium-sized automotive supplier, experienced this first-hand: When she wanted to switch her team to agile, everything went wrong….
But before we tell you about it, let’s take a closer look at the agile mindset. An agile mindset? Um? – What is that actually?

 

 

Agile office

 

 

What is an agile mindset?

What is a mindset?

The word mindset describes the beliefs and inner attitudes of a person or a group. This gives rise to ways of thinking and patterns of behavior. Synonyms for mindset are mentality, self-image or attitude.

What does agile mean?

Agile means flexible, maneuverable, able to react quickly.

Definition of an agile mindset

An agile mindset is the inner attitude of one or more people that enables them to allow uncertainty, to deal with change in a situational and constructive way and to accept that change is permanent.

Description of agile mindset

An agile mindset is based on agile values such as openness, appreciation, flexibility, trust and a few more. We will go into the agile values in more detail later.
Ultimately, the mindset is about the prevailing corporate culture in your organization:

  • Are you, your managers and employees open and flexible? Or is everything worked through meticulously according to plan?
  • Are there flat hierarchies or rather complex organizational charts?
  • What happens if an employee makes a mistake? – Will you learn from this or will he be punished for it?
  • Do you trust or do you control?
  • Can employees make decisions themselves or are countless agreements necessary, as in Sabine’s company?

Speaking of…

 

 

Agile transformation

 

 

 

 

On the way to an agile mindset: Why become agile at all?

Sabine is really annoyed! Things are progressing slowly in her company:
Sabine’s team designs the company’s external communications. It manages the website and social media channels, launches campaigns, produces films, brochures and so on. The automotive supplier has been on the market for a long time and, as a traditional company, has a rather conservative structure: it is clearly defined who is allowed to make which decisions and who has to ask which superior for approval. As a result, decision-making processes seem to take ages.

Recently, Marie, the youngest employee, inspired a campaign that would have related to current affairs. A great idea – would have hit like a bomb! However, Sabine first had to make sure that this was all right. – Yes, everyone thought it was great, but unfortunately there were so many consultation loops within the company that the longed-for green light only came after the event in question had been out for a while. Great! And it wasn’t the first time.

 

 

Reasons for agility

Many people feel the same way as Sabine: they realize that the world has become increasingly fast-paced and unpredictable in recent decades. And that this naturally also has an impact on their company. The framework conditions or customer requirements often change during the course of a project. It is therefore important to be able to adapt yourself and your company immediately to changing circumstances. An approach is needed that is fast, flexible and close to the customer so that a delayed reaction to changes in the environment, as Sabine and Marie experienced, cannot happen. And this is where agility can be of great service.

 

Sabine finally wants to counteract the slowdown and snail’s pace. But what?
She asks herself: “What is this “agile” thing that she has read about so often? Lately, she has often been doing research on the subject at home on the couch in the evenings. She likes the attitude behind agility – fast, flexible, modern. But what is really important in this jungle of terms? What is the best way to become agile? – There’s design thinking, Scrum, Kanban, iterations, empathy maps and all sorts of other euphonious anglicisms… And now?

 

But before we go into this question in more detail, let’s take an excursion into different mindsets, here using the example of the growth versus fixed mindset:

 

 

Fixed versus growth mindset

 

 

Growth mindset versus fixed mindset

US psychologist Carol Susan Dweck is a professor at Stanford University. Her work revolves around ways of thinking, mindsets. In her book “Mindset – Changing the way you think to fulfill your potential”, she defines two contrasting mindsets: the fixed and the growth mindset. Each of the two mindsets has a different approach to challenges and change and different beliefs about creativity, intelligence and talent:

Fixed Mindset

A fixed mindset assumes that a person’s talent, creativity and intelligence are fixed values and cannot be changed.

Growth Mindset

A growth mindset assumes that further development and growth in terms of talent, creativity and intelligence are possible.

 

 

The agile growth mindset perceives failures as information about what needs to be done differently – and not as a diagnosis of low talent.
Carol Susan Dweck

 

 

Agile principles

 

 

 

The consequences of a fixed mindset

A person with a fixed mindset is convinced that their options are limited: “You either have talent or you don’t.” He sees mistakes and criticism as a sign that he simply cannot do something, that he has reached the limits of what he can do. Mistakes are a sign of incompetence; he prefers to stay away from such things. When criticized, he tends to feel attacked and justifies himself. Or looks for someone to blame… He considers efforts and challenges pointless. Why stress when you can only go this far and no further? In the end, the others realize that he’s not up to it. No, no, I’d rather not. He prefers to have his actions approved instead of doing a little research himself. The success of others feels rather threatening to this person. He gives up quickly if something doesn’t work right away. He limits himself with his attitude.

The consequences of a growth mindset

A person with a growth mindset sees opportunities for further development: “A mistake? Good, I’ll learn from it”. “Criticism? Ok, thanks for that! How can I make it better?”. Mistakes are sources of learning. She sees obstacles and challenges as part of the journey. “You just have to make an effort. You’ll get there eventually!” She is not quick to question herself and her abilities, but looks for ways to improve. Your feedback is therefore very welcome. The success of others inspires her “Ah! So you can do it like that too?” When something goes wrong, she feels spurred on to find the causes. It is constantly expanding its possibilities.

Fixed or growth mindset?

It is not the case that a person always has a fixed or a growth mindset and fits completely into one of the two categories. People have different mindsets in different areas of their lives. Someone can learn from mistakes in some areas and consider themselves incompetent in others. We all know it, right? Nonetheless, people tend in one direction or the other and are generally more fixed or growth-oriented.

 

 

Video: Believing in your own ability to learn

TED Talk by Carol Susan Dweck, in English with German subtitles. (10:12 min)
It’s about a “growth-oriented attitude”; about the question: “Am I not smart enough or have I simply not found the right solution yet?”

 

But to what extent does this distinction actually mean for our Sabine? Sabine is still struggling with the agile terminology, such as retrospective and sprint and so on…

 

 

 

 

On the way to an agile mindset: where to start?

“Well,” thinks Sabine, “I have to start somewhere!” – and decides to introduce Scrum to her team. She wonders whether it makes sense to work with design thinking at the same time. “I don’t know, you can try it – maybe it will help?”. First of all, she reads everything about Scrum and tries to explain it to her team. But: Her team is not amused… Not at all.
“Excuse me, Sabine?” complains Mike, “you know exactly how much we have on our plate! – And now we’re supposed to squeeze Daily Scrum into our day?”. “Exactly – and all this planning, retrospectives, refinements – even more bureaucracy. That’s great! When are we supposed to work? We’ll just be slaves to meeting formats,” adds Brigitte. Doesn’t look so good at first.

 

 

 

Becoming agile without an agile mindset

Most companies that want to become agile make the mistake that Sabine makes: They pick an agile framework (such as Scrum or Design Thinking), use its agile tools and try to use these “instructions for action” to shimmy their way towards agility. It would be wonderful if that worked. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Let’s take a look at what agile frameworks and tools actually are!

 

Video inspire employees

And because Sabine didn’t manage to inspire her team, but you would certainly like to know how to go about it, here is a video in which Susanne Grätsch explains: How do I get employees excited about a change? (4 min)

 

 

 

 

 

The agile pyramid

Well, let’s bring some order to the jumble of agile terms.
What helps here is the agile pyramid, which you can see in the picture. This model shows the different levels of agility:

  1. Agile tools, agile methods
  2. Agile frameworks
  3. Agile principles
  4. Agile values, agile mindset

And to do this, we look at the framework conditions and structures of a company

  • Working environment
  • Incentivization
  • Organizational structure

We go through each term in turn.

 

 

Agile pyramid

 

 

 

 

1. agile tools / agile methods

Definition of agile tool

Agile tools (or methods) are meeting formats, guidelines and techniques that help us to tackle a specific task in an agile process.

Description of agile tools

There are agile tools for feedback (e.g. retrospectives), tools for sharing knowledge (user experience fishbowl) and other tools that help to understand people (empathy maps). Agile frameworks such as Scrum, Design Thinking and Heckatons contain many such tools. Agile tools can also be used outside agile frameworks.

You can imagine that agile frameworks are like toolboxes that contain various tools. Now, the electrician certainly has a different toolbox to the painter, but both will certainly need a screwdriver from time to time. In the same way, the Design Thinking framework is different from Scrum, but both frameworks sometimes work in “sprints”.

Agile methods

What are agile methods now? The term “agile methods” is sometimes used for agile frameworks, sometimes also for agile tools. In this article, we use the term “methods” for the individual tools in the toolbox (agile frameworks).

 

 

Craftsman toolbox

 

 

 

How many agile tools are there?

Hundreds! – And the trend is rising.
In addition to the agile tools from the agile frameworks, there are countless instructions on how to approach certain challenges. People who moderate processes contribute their own ideas; this is how more and more tools are being developed. It is worth doing some research online. Many creative techniques that consultants like us offer can also be used by teams on their own.

 

 

Our tip:

At www.liberat ingsructures.de you will find a compilation of agile tools and a matchmaker that shows you which tool is best for which task.

 

 

Are you agile if you use agile methods?

You probably already guessed it: Nope!

Why agile tools?

Agile tools support teams in implementing agile principles. And not as an end in itself, of course, but to work faster, more flexibly and closer to the customer.
A few examples:

  • Creative tools help you to find creative solutions to new challenges as part of a team.
  • Feedback formats are methods that help you grow together as a team and adapt to changing conditions.

Ideally, teams use these instructions to develop further on their own.

 

 

Teamwork

 

 

 

 

On the way to an agile mindset: agile tools

Sabine feels her way around: she starts with a feedback round. In Scrum, this tool is called a retrospective. “Feedback everyone knows – and then we can discuss how the last projects went.” However, everyone is happy that the projects have been completed and sees no added value in continuing to talk about them. And certainly not about the things that didn’t go quite so well. They suspect that they are trying to find someone to blame. And since nobody wants to implicate their colleagues or even themselves, they prefer to keep quiet…
Sabine tries to bring some momentum into the silent meeting and names critical moments herself. What follows are nervous explanations from the employees as to why it absolutely had to happen this way, who could be an alternative culprit and other more or less well-fabricated justifications. The team looks at his hands and feet conspicuously often. Enthusiasm looks different.
The meeting is a complete failure. Great.

 

 

 

Video feedback

Feedback? What? – If you want to go into more detail at this point, watch the video. Susanne Grätsch explains in 4:30 min how to give feedback in an agile environment.

Or read our article Giving feedback: 10 rules for successful & constructive feedback

 

 

 

 

 

2. agile frameworks / agile practices

Definition of agile framework

An agile framework is a framework process: a multitude of steps and their instructions (agile tools) that are put in a sequence to achieve a specific goal.

What are agile frameworks for?

Agile frameworks give us a very well thought-out and detailed overall structure of a procedure to achieve certain goals. The best-known frameworks serve the following goals: Fundamental innovation and new development (design thinking), development of a specific new product in a short period of time (design sprint or hackathon), agile project management (scrum).
Some frameworks, such as Design Sprint, are based on specific time periods; in Design Sprint, you have five clearly structured days to realize a product.
The agile frameworks are there to ensure that a team implements the agile principles. The strict methodology gives the team confidence in its approach. This gives the team a pretty good idea of how they can work together, even without extensive training or an expensive moderator. The aim is to react quickly and flexibly to changes and to incorporate customer opinions into the process.

We have written an article in which we explain the most important agile frameworks (Design Thinking, Design Sprint, Lena Start Up, Scrum) and how they work.

 

 

 

 

On the way to an agile mindset: freedom to make decisions

Sabine is not so easily fooled! After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. That’s why she is using the tools and agile meeting formats for the time being. Your plan this time is more positive: The team should find decisions and solutions!
The team members think that’s a good thing; after all, they’re all fed up with the slowness in the company. The prospect of more independence silences the initial grumbling. Let’s go! The team tries things out.
However, Sabine had imagined it would be much easier: When she looks at how her team carefully tinkers around, she quickly becomes impatient; after all, a solution has to be found quickly – and the best one! And since Sabine has been doing her job for so long, she can probably assume that her ideas are among the best. That’s how she keeps reigning the team in. It simply goes faster if she gives the right instructions, she thinks.
The team’s willingness to experiment is visibly dwindling. At first, Brigitte secretly rolls her eyes and Mike takes a deep breath when Sabine speaks up again, but soon Sabine no longer needs to interrupt anyone because no one says anything.
It reminds you of your school days, where you are quizzed and the teacher – no matter what you have said – gives you a little lecture. No one ever enjoyed that, did they?

 

 

 

Video: Scrum has made you curious?

No problem: We’ll tell you all about Scrum and its tools such as Retrospective, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review etc.

Video: Susanne Grätsch explains Scrum (2:26 min)

 

 

 

 

 

3. the agile principles

What are agile principles?

Definition of agile principles

The agile principles are guidelines on how to proceed in agile projects.

Description of agile principles

Agile principles should ensure that a development team reacts quickly and flexibly to the constant changes in requirements in a VUCA world, that the focus is on customer requirements and that people, teams and companies continue to develop on a regular basis.

How did the agile principles come about?

In 2001, 17 software developers met at a winter sports resort in Utah to think together about how software development could be improved. They had realized that software development was no longer running smoothly according to the previous principle; it was not customer- and market-oriented enough. The previous process was organized according to the waterfall principle. This is a linear way of working, i.e. one project phase follows another: Someone has an idea, a plan is drawn up, the phases are worked through and the software is brought to market. Whether customers want to use the software and its features in the way that the developers of the plan have assumed will only become clear when the software is sold. But how could the wishes of the customers and the requirements of the market be incorporated into the project development?
The result was the agile manifesto.

 

The agile manifesto

Here is an excerpt:
“We are opening up better ways to develop software,
by doing it ourselves and helping others to do it. This activity has taught us to appreciate these values:
1. individuals and interactions more than processes and tools
2. functioning software more than comprehensive documentation
3. cooperation with the customer more than contract negotiation
4. responding to change more than following a plan
That is, although we find the values on the right important,
we estimate the values on the left to be higher.”

Source: http://agilemanifesto.org/iso/de/manifesto.html

Based on this focus and emphasis, the software developers present developed 12 agile principles.

 

Agile methods

 

 

 

What agile principles are there?

In our graphic we have a selection of eight of the agile principles:

1. learning through feedback
2. iterative procedure
3. customer in focus
4. empowerment
5. working with prototypes
6. transparency of information
7. self-organization
8 Collaboration

Feedback

A typical agile principle is learning through feedback. This is to ensure that there is feedback from the environment and that this is incorporated into the further process. This allows you to adapt optimally to rapidly changing requirements. Ideally, lifelong learning is the result.

The agile framework Scrum incorporates the agile principle of feedback: After each sprint, i.e. each work cycle, those involved come together and consider together what went well and where things should be done differently. In Scrum, there are even two feedback tools: first, there is the review. This is where the current progress in the development of a product or service is discussed with all stakeholders, including potential or existing customers. What works? What is still missing? Are there any other ideas or needs?
This is followed by the retrospective. Here, the team members discuss what they have learned from the previous work phase and what they can do better in the next sprint. This includes discussing the mood and cooperation within the team. In retrospect, it’s less about the product and more about the working method.

Iteration

Iteration means proceeding step by step. This is a fundamental agile principle.

What is the difference to the classic approach?
In traditional approaches, a long-term plan is first drawn up that defines all processes from start to finish. This plan is then worked through step by step. The classics are annual planning and business plans.
However, if a project is approached in an agile manner, it is only planned for a very short period of time – often just two weeks. After that: Put your foot on the ball, reflect and then plan again for the next short period.
In Scrum, these iteration phases are called sprints, as mentioned above. Iteration is also an important basis in design thinking. Although the design thinking process with its six phases appears to be sequential, each phase can and should be repeated until everyone has the impression “Now it’s done! – We can move on to the next step.” And you can and should always go back between the steps if you realize that the result was not so satisfactory after all.

 

Close to the customer

 

 

 

Being close to the customer

User-centered, i.e. working close to the customer – what does that mean?
It means involving customers in the development process instead of serving them the finished result at the end. This allows the customer to contribute their thoughts and needs and increases the likelihood that they will actually find the product or service attractive. His wishes are ultimately reflected in it.
This is often difficult for companies in terms of mindset, as the customer should get 100% perfect results and no half measures. That could leave a bad impression.
What tools are available for this?
For example, the creation of prototypes: an interim solution is created quickly and inexpensively in order to show it to the customer and obtain their opinion.
Another tool is customer interviews before work begins. Personas and empathy maps can then be created from customer opinions obtained in advance.

The central idea is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and understand their needs and the problem they want to solve with the service or product. The interviews are not simply about ticking a few boxes, but about giving the customer the opportunity to express themselves more comprehensively. This is the only way to incorporate new ideas.

Empowerment

Empowerment is very important in agility. The employees’ scope for decision-making and action is expanded and they are encouraged to look for solutions themselves. After all, those who are closest to the customer are the quickest to find out what is going on, what is needed and usually have to act the fastest. If he is then not allowed to do so, it often damages the company – and it also frustrates the employee.

If Marie, the youngster in Sabine’s department, had been empowered to simply try out her funky idea instead of having to pick up umpteen hierarchical levels, she would have started on time.

Want to know more about empowerment? We have written an extensive article about this:
Empowerment in an agile context: The 5 ways to empowerment.

 

 

Agile workplace

 

 

 

 

On the way to an agile mindset: what slows down agility?

Sabine has planned the year through. Of course she did. After all, she has to deliver something to her superior Norbert. Norbert checks every now and then to make sure the store is running. Sabine’s team has to achieve the agreed targets, come what may. And of course, these targets are not lower than last year’s, as the aim is to improve. Team Sabine has to reach for the ceiling. With the annual target and Norbert breathing down their necks and the company’s own slowness at their feet, the team muddles through the jungle of work, which admittedly never goes as smoothly as Norbert generously assumed the previous year. So far, there has been no question of an iterative approach.
Empowerment is not far off either. After all, every move has to be nodded through at the top. Self-organization is not really in there. This is partly due to the fact that much of the necessary information is not even accessible to employees.
Sabine is tearing her hair out: the more she deals with agility, the more she realizes that a few tools won’t help her. There is no progress. After all, youngster Marie thinks it’s good, “all that agile stuff”. And Brigitte admitted at some point while chatting at the coffee machine that she had read up a little on the subject of Scrum. Better than nothing.

 

 

 

 

To the point

Several values make up a mindset.
Several mindsets make up the corporate culture.

Video Agile Transformation

In the video, Oliver Grätsch explains: How does an agile transformation succeed: What do I have to change as a manager? (2:50 min)

 

 

 

 

 

4 The agile mindset: culture and values

Now let’s move on to what we outed as the most important thing right at the beginning: the agile mindset, the agile culture.

Remember: an agile mindset means being able to deal constructively with permanent change and to act quickly, flexibly and close to the customer.
But an agile mindset is much more than that.

 

The mindset as the basis of corporate culture

The mindset, i.e. the inner attitude of the individual employees, determines the atmosphere, the prevailing corporate culture in the organization:
If most employees have a fixed mindset, i.e. a mindset that says “stick to your last”, then there will rarely be any creative outbursts in the company.
On the other hand, the “nothing ventured, nothing gained” mentality certainly gives reason to expect news.
Corporate cultures can be very different.
What is the difference between agile and traditional corporate culture?

 

Agile and conservative, traditional corporate culture compared

Here are just a few examples without any claim to completeness

 

Agile corporate culture

Open feedback culture:

Feedback is seen as a welcome opportunity to learn and is given in an appreciative and constructive manner.

Constructive error culture:

Everyone knows that in new situations the solution is often not obvious. So we are trying it out. If something is not successful, the experience is evaluated positively and something else is tried. Prototypes are used in an attempt to minimize the effort involved in testing.

Transparency and communication:

Information is shared, passing on knowledge and information is seen as positive. The exchange of knowledge is a give and take, even beyond company boundaries.

Plan for sight, not for completeness:

In order to be able to deal well with uncertainty, planning is only ever carried out for the next foreseeable period. And it’s perfectly okay to leave the “after” open.

Empowerment:

People are enabled to make decisions as independently as possible at the point of action. Trust in the competence of employees and self-organization are the watchwords here. Everyone works to the best of their knowledge and belief to achieve a good result.

 

 

Conservative corporate culture

Feedback is unusual,

is perceived as criticism. It’s often about finding the culprit or protecting yourself as the feedback recipient from criticism.

Mistakes are a bad thing

and to be avoided at all costs. So something is only implemented if it is assumed that it will be successful. The aim is 100% quality, perfection in every action.

Knowledge is power,

In this respect, you make sure that you keep your knowledge to yourself and don’t reveal too much. There is a fear that employees “know too much” because it could give them “stupid ideas”.

Insecurity is considered a weakness;

Planning is good when it is as detailed and complete as possible. Projects and tasks are planned to completion. A deviation from the plan is a sign that the plan was not good enough.

Leadership is characterized by “command and control”:

The boss says what needs to be done, the employee does it and the boss checks whether the task has been done to a good standard.

 

 

Growth Mindset

 

 

 

 

What is the basis for a mindset?

Just as different colors create a picture, a number of values and beliefs create a mindset. In this case, values are the answer to: What is really important? Beliefs are statements about what is right.
Of course, the question of what is important in the personal sphere and what is considered right is answered differently by each person. As far as work is concerned, however, it is clear that a value analysis can be used to determine values within a company and that there are usually quite clear trends. Because the employees are well aware of whether the company is about doing a good job in a modern, funky and light-footed way or rather about producing German workmanship.
It is therefore not surprising that an agile corporate culture places great emphasis on flexibility and speed, whereas a more classically organized company places greater emphasis on planning and precision.

What are agile values?

What are the values that create an agile attitude, a growth mindset? Agile values are, for example, courage, flexibility, tolerance, commitment, trust, openness, speed, focus and appreciation.

Why agile values?

Agile tools do not work if there is not a culture that allows them to be implemented. Such a corporate culture requires the appropriate values.

 

 

New Mindset New Result

 

 

 

 

On the way to an agile mindset: the values behind the agile principle of empowerment

Empowerment requires the value of trust. You need to have confidence that employees will handle decisions well.
Unfortunately, Sabine doesn’t yet have this confidence, even though she says: “I’ll give you more room to maneuver; now you decide”. So far, she has not trusted her team, but has always taken the lead and ultimately made the decisions herself to be on the safe side.
She checked and corrected and made her team understand: “What you are doing is not right.” Ultimately, this only leads to both Sabine and the team feeling bad and frustrated.
The team no longer feels like making decisions. No matter what it does, it is always wrong. To avoid this, the employees prefer to come to Sabine with every decision and make sure they are safe. And so one thing leads to another: Sabine has no confidence in the team’s ability to make decisions and the team does not trust Sabine’s sudden empowerment measures. The culture remains the same: trust is good, control and security are better. Not a trace of an agile mindset. Sabine is annoyed that her team won’t take responsibility… (Self-fullfilling prophecy: “I want to empower the team, but the team just doesn’t want to take responsibility…”)
Even the smartest agile tool won’t help…
And of course there are other values involved here: Courage, for example. Sabine needs the courage to let go of issues and the team needs the courage to make decisions independently. Courage is also needed to look for new solutions, because mistakes and failure are inevitable and fear is the worst possible advisor.

 

 

 

How are agile mindset, agile principles, agile frameworks and agile tools connected?

To live an agile principle, you need a corresponding mindset based on various values. The frameworks support the agile principles and ensure that they are practiced in a way that promotes agility. There are tools in the frameworks with which the implementation can be realized.

Sabine wanted to apply the agile principle of learning through feedback. She used the Retrospective tool from the Scrum framework for this.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Why?

 

 

Become agile

 

 

 

Why agile principles, frameworks and tools are not enough

Giving and receiving feedback effectively requires the values of courage, trust, openness and appreciation. Sabine’s team will only be able to talk openly about critical moments if they are sure that feedback is given in a benevolent or appreciative manner and is not about finding fault and looking for culprits.
What Sabine’s team needs is a culture of error that is based on trust and appreciation. This is the case when Marie can say: “Well, I didn’t find the design that exciting because… And I would try it this way”. And if Mike doesn’t feel personally attacked because of this and insists on the design. And Birgit doesn’t start justifying it. But when everyone says: “Great – of course, let’s give it a try. Great idea!”

 

Agile principles and agile values – what’s the difference? Or: Which values for which principle?

Examples of agile principles

 

Agile values that support the principle

  • Radical changes to requirements are welcome even late in the development process.
    Openness to new things and change, flexibility, creativity.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Provide the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.
    or also
    The best architectures, requirements and designs are created by self-organized teams.
    Appreciation and trust.
  • Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of undone work – is essential.
    Simplicity, efficiency, the attitude that “good enough” is enough.
  • Respect, lifelong learning, appreciation, openness to change, the attitude that further development is a positive thing.

 

Values that hinder the principle

  • Values such as reliability, security, stability – the belief in detailed plans.
  • The need for power and control, the attitude that the boss makes the best decisions.
  • Perfection, security, fear of mistakes.
    At regular intervals, the team reflects on how it can become more effective and adapts its behavior accordingly.
  • Destructive error culture that goes hand in hand with devaluation, perfection.

 

 

Agile Workplace

 

 

 

 

On the way to an agile mindset: the corporate culture

Sabine has not given up. On the contrary: she has dealt extensively with the topic of agility. This has made her aware of the importance of corporate culture, i.e. the values within the company. She has realized that her mindset still has a long way to go before it becomes agile. She rates the mindset in the team similarly. She takes heart:
She takes an afternoon for her team; has equipped a conference room with coffee and cake. The team is looking forward to it. Brigitte asks if it’s someone’s birthday. “Something like that,” grins Sabine. She initiates a discussion about the current corporate culture. “What kind of culture do we have?” and also “What kind of culture do we want?”. In this relaxed atmosphere, the team members are relaxed.
However, the conversation doesn’t really get going until Sabine starts talking about her own weaknesses in a very self-reflective way. “I know that I have repeatedly announced that you can find your own solutions and make your own decisions. And that I’ve then repeatedly stepped on your toes and snatched everything. I’m sorry, I’m still learning here too. I think we’re all just starting out.” The others feel understood and slowly open up.
There are even suggestions on how to improve the next retrospective. The mood is good. After all, everyone wants things to move forward.

 

A few weeks later:

Sabine is happy about the progress. Scrum seems to be reasonably well accepted in the team. And yet: she finds it difficult to let go. She is fully aware that feedback, empowerment and all the other agile principles are only effective if she dares to accept solutions, decisions and feedback from the team. It’s not easy: how often does she have to bite her tongue when something goes wrong? She then pauses briefly, takes a breath and encourages the team instead of criticizing them.
She tries to look at her management role differently: She doesn’t want to be the superior who delegates, controls and knows things better. She wants to develop in the direction of servant leadership and support her team in finding the best solutions themselves.

 

 

 

 

How do you get an agile corporate culture off the ground? Oliver Grätsch explains here how it can work.

Video Agile corporate culture

In the video, Oliver Grätsch explains how you can create an agile corporate culture. (2:30 min)

 

 

 

 

 

5. framework conditions and structures

Agility cannot simply grow in all structures: if a company has very strong management structures, for example, and every action is regulated, then the self-organized Scrum team will not work… In other words: ultimately, you need framework conditions and structures that offer enough freedom for agile action.
How can this free space be created?

What structures does agility need?

Responsibilities

Imagine this: The project teams work in a self-organized way in Scrum, but each employee is still assigned to their manager. Manager Norbert delegates without caring about the tasks agreed in the sprint. In addition to the project business, Norbert assigns his employee Brigitte significantly more line business than before. It just has to be now. Brigitte and her team are currently in the hot phase of an agilely organized campaign. She has allocated 60% of her working time to the project. Brigitte explains to Norbert: “I’m sorry: I don’t have time at the moment, I’m in the project business and have agreed targets there.” Norbert gets grumpy. “What is this? Is this a refusal to work?” The frown line between his eyebrows reaches majestic depths. Brigitte feels very uncomfortable as the servant of two masters. Now she’s supposed to pay for it too? Oh no! Norbert has his own ideas about what should be done now. He determines what Brigitte does and when and how by means of “top stitches bottom”. And that’s that!
Well, what do you think? Does that work with agility?
Nope.

What does it take?

Hierarchies need to be adapted. And management roles need to be redefined: this means, for example, switching from disciplinary management to lateral management so that employees are given significantly more freedom to make decisions.

 

 

Agile frameworks

 

 

Time and money

Many companies and organizations think in terms of annual targets. This does not do justice to our rapidly changing VUCA world. What can’t happen within a year? In addition, one of the fundamental agile principles is iteration, i.e. taking one step at a time – and only then seeing how things progress. Here we plan for the next four to six weeks, but not for a year.
It gets really bad when the annual target is broken down into personal goals and linked to a bonus: Employee Mike realizes in the fall that the annual target is now completely inappropriate. He sees that it would even be counterproductive to hold on to it in the current situation. However, his salary is tied to this. What is more important to him? The company’s profit or your own salary? And since everyone is closer to their jacket than their pants, they implement what is written on the paper and not what would benefit the company. The annual target quickly becomes an own goal for the company.

Goals

An alternative to the classic target agreement is working with OKRs, Objectives and Key Results:
Instead of giving employees top-down annual targets linked to the bonus system, an attractive vision is formulated that makes the strategic direction clear. Each team discusses on a quarterly basis what contribution it can and wants to make in the coming quarter in order to contribute to the vision. This contribution is made measurable with key results so that the team can see how successful it was after the quarter.

The difference is that OKRs are only used to plan for one quarter. In addition, the goals are no longer specified and assigned to a person, but the team makes loose agreements together to provide orientation.
The advantage: in order to get their money, the employee no longer has to implement by hook or by crook what may no longer be suitable, but the team can decide together in a self-organized and self-responsible manner at short intervals what is next in order to support the company on its chosen course. The changeover to OKRs therefore clearly accommodates agile working.

 

 

Creating an agile mindset

 

 

Structures & Departments

There is a whole range of topics that are fundamental to making agile working work. For example, the organizational structures: does a company work in columns consisting of homogeneous departments in which only the specific task of the department is dealt with? Or are there cross-functional teams that are close to the customer?
Why? – If work is done in departments and these departments do not communicate well with each other, then agility cannot really be implemented. How a company is set up in terms of its organizational structure plays a major role!
The alternative: as mentioned above – the cross-functional team. This is where everyone involved in the current project, the customer, sits around the table. This allows many perspectives to be brought in and new approaches to be developed together. If nobody looks further than their own garden fence, then not much new will develop…

This is an example that we often encounter in our day-to-day work: If there is a pre-sales team, sales team and service team, the flow of information often grinds at the interface. If there are more customer teams or project teams in which every employee who has something to do with the customer or project is involved, this significantly improves the flow of information. And this also improves the quality of the work for the customer or the project.

Places

What does your office actually look like? Do people sit in individual offices without being able to see each other? Are you perhaps based at different locations? Agile working also works virtually, but the best and easiest way is to get together in the morning and have a quick chat, if that’s possible. Is there a room for meetings where you can get creative? Is your office designed according to New Work principles? Or is your company very soberly furnished? The company’s facilities and premises also have an influence on how well agile work can be done.

 

 

Developing an agile mindset

 

 

 

 

On the way to an agile mindset: green light from above

Sabine wants to give agility more space. She talks to the management. She wants to ensure that there is no longer a plan for the next year, but that iterative planning only takes place for the next few weeks. And that their team’s scope for action is significantly increased. Managing Director Uwe is skeptical. But Sabine has now read so much about agility and gained so much experience with her team in recent weeks that she manages to convince Uwe. He bites the bullet and says: “Well, let’s give it a try for a while and then we’ll see if it works.”
Sabine negotiates with Uwe and her direct boss Norbert about which decisions the team can now make alone for the time being. Uwe makes it clear within which guidelines and guidelines decisions can be made and where coordination is required. The bottom line is that the team has become much more flexible. It is a first big step.
The team is delighted! The pressure of annual planning is taken off their shoulders. Take a deep breath. And not only that! Now they can finally react more quickly to current situations and no longer have to waste time explaining in detail to their stressed superiors what they want to tackle. Brigitte brings chocolates for everyone to celebrate the day. And Marie thinks she might have an idea…

 

 

 

Conclusion: It all depends on the agile mindset!

 

Doing agile or being agile?

We have made no secret of the fact that the most important thing in an agile transformation is agile values and the resulting mindset. Only when these values come into play does the implementation of agile principles work. If this is the case, it is called “being agile”.
The opposite of this is “doing agile”, i.e. acting agile. This is the case when agile tools and frameworks are used without living the agile principles and values.

To use an analogy: if someone strums chords on the guitar, they are far from being a musician. Only when he feels the music, has the groove, then it becomes music.

 

 

Reading on the topic of agile

 

 

 

 

On the way to an agile mindset: What could Sabine have done differently from the start?

All in all, Sabine did quite well. The journey towards greater agility is never straightforward and is not without its mistakes. The important thing is that she started and tried it out. It has learned from its mistakes and made adjustments.
In this respect: If you start out on this journey yourself, assume that one or two things will go wrong. But don’t let this discourage you, take these findings as learning experiences! Try out what works best for you!

Still want a few tips on how things could have gone more smoothly? Sure. So,
Sabine could have involved her team in the decision from the outset as to whether they wanted to work in an agile way. Instead, she could have made the WHY, i.e. the purpose of this way of working, clearer. And then she could have asked the team members for feedback on how they felt about it. Afterwards, they could have considered together HOW they could work more agilely as a team. Perhaps she could have addressed the topic of culture and values right at the beginning. And it could have signaled openness to change. Sabine could have picked up her team better this way. Your employees would have known what it was all about and would not have feared further pointless work processes. She could also have asked the team at the start what they needed from her as a manager to make agile working work.

 

 

 

 

How do you develop an agile mindset?

You’ve probably already guessed it: developing an agile mindset is not something you can do in two weeks. What a pity, really.
The good news: it is possible. We have already written a lot on this topic and present our articles here.
Depending on where you stand or which area you are most interested in, there are definitely a few suitable contributions.
Oh yes – and if you need support in becoming agile or having an agile mindset – we happen to know a lot about that. Just get in touch – we look forward to hearing from you!
Comments on our contributions are also very welcome.

 

Positive mindset

 

 

 

Blog posts on the topic of becoming agile

Becoming agile – how does that work?

Agility – What makes an agile company? How do we become agile?
Agile transformation in 23 steps: Definition, basics & tutorial
Become agile? Oh no. 13 tips on how to successfully prevent agility
Digital leadership – new times, new leadership!

Agility

Agile methods: Design Thinking, Design Sprint, Lean Startup, ScrumTrend Topic Agile: The Emperor’s New Agility
Agile tools, agile project management & agile leadership
Agile product development: what is it and how does it work?

Corporate culture

Corporate culture & cultural change: definition, examples, tips for success
Error culture before error management! How your company learns from mistakes
Establishing a culture of innovation through trust: 5 practical tips

Values – the basis for mindsets

How to create a value profile and use it to change your company
Why you should actively shape value management in your company
The Graves value system: what is really important to people
The Spiral Dynamics value model: what is really important to people

Change – how does change work?

Cultural change: The 7 factors that make you successful
Change Manager Definition & Tips: How to lead change successfully!
VUCA: Change management in our VUCA world – the success factors

Scrum – the agile framework explained simply

The Scrum Guide: What is Scrum and how does it work?
The Scrum retrospective – explanation and practice
Scrum in practice – advantages & disadvantages of Scrum

Self-organization

How self-organization works in the company: The 10 basics
Self-organization – practical experience

What else you need to become agile:

How to give constructive feedback: 10 rules for successful feedback
Empowerment in an agile context: The 5 paths to empowerment
Lateral leadership – tips for leadership without power

Video Growth Mindset

Wow, you’ve read a lot now! – If you feel like watching a little video now, then we have something for you:
Video: Dr. Carol S. Dweck, Professor at Stanford University talks about the growth mindset at talks at google 47:26

 

 

 

Further reading on the agile mindset

Studies, books, articles that deal with the agile mindset:

Application of agile methods in the automotive sector.
Martin Engstler et al. (ed.): Projektmanagement und Vorgehensmodelle 2016, Lecture Notes in Informatics (LNI), Gesellschaft für Informatik, Bonn 2016.
Pdf Download

Hybrid structures in the automotive industry
– Study on agile practices in research and development processes.
Helge F. R. Nuhn1, Jan-Philipp Martini and Achim Kostron.

Mind-Sets Matter: A Meta-Analytic Review of Implicit Theories and Self-Regulation
by Jeni L Burnette, Ernest O’Boyle, Eric M Vanepps, Jeffrey M Pollack, pdf download in English.

How agile is your company?
Agile forms of working are already widespread among companies in German-speaking countries. But there is still some catching up to do in many areas. This is shown by the current study “How agile is your company? – Agile Pulse” by management and technology consultancy BearingPoint. Companies in Austria and Germany were surveyed for this purpose.

The agile mindset, developing employees, shaping the future of work
Book by Svenja Hofert, Managing Director of Karriereberatung Karriere & Entwicklung and Teamworks GTQ Gesellschaft für Teamentwicklung und Qualifizierung mbH.

“Agility in the wrong place can cause great damage”
Interview with René Kräling, Senior Consultant at Campana & Schott and co-initiator of the Future Organization Report 2019.

What is an agile mindset?
Cordula Kartheininger, HR Manager at AOE GmbH, and Professor Stephan Fischer from Pforzheim University answer this question.

The authors

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Oliver Grätsch
Michelle 550
Michelle Templin
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Christian Grätsch
Matthias-Beikert-550-550
Matthias Beikert
Susanne_Grätsch_1_550x550px
Susanne Grätsch
Monika Bt 550x550
Monika Steininger
Kai_Hübner_550x550px
Kai Hübner
Philipp Andresen 500x550
Philipp Andresen
berliner_team_Isabell_1
Anna Isabell Arendt
Claudia_Schmidt_550x550px
Dr. Claudia Schmidt
Inga_Kühn_550x550px
Inga Kühn
BT_Web_Team_Knebel_550x550
Kassandra Knebel
BT_Web_Team_Lehmann_550x550
Claudia Lehmann
Komplettes Team

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