How to Help a Team Become More Agile: Upholding the Agile Mindset
Upholding the agile mindset is the fifth principle of the Agile Team Facilitation Stance.
The five principles include:
- Maintaining Neutrality
- Standing in the Storm
- Honoring the wisdom of the group
- Holding the Group’s Agenda
- Upholding the Agile Mindset and Practices
If you are responsible for helping a team become more agile, and are looking for a way to assist a team adopt agility without telling them what to do, this is a good place to start.
It’s the Unique Position You Hold as a Part of the Team!
Agile facilitation is not unique because of the skills of facilitation it requires. What sets you apart as an agile facilitator is the unique position you hold as a part of the team.
As a member of the team, when facilitating, your role is to stand apart from the team.
This ‘dualism’ causes tension for many new facilitators.
Therefore it is important to acknowledge that if you are standing solidly in the other four principles of facilitation, you’ll be just fine – even if you don’t uphold the mindset of agility. You are still facilitating, you just won’t be supporting agility.
The Agile Mind Does Not Equate to Tools and Practices
Facilitating while upholding the agile mindset starts with one simple premise:
“You are the guardian of the values and principles of the agile mindset, not the adjuster of the agile practices.”
Telling people what to do, forcing process, or not listening to what’s happening on the team is not what upholding the agile mindset is about.
Upholding the agile mindset does not look like defending the use of retrospectives as a tried-and-true method of starting conversations.
So, what is and what does upholding an agile mindset look like?
Become the Guardian of the Values and Principles
When a team gets bored, or things aren’t working when leaning on practices in a particular agile framework, it’s time to look beyond what you know.
Lead the team and find inspiration in the practices that others have created, and try them.
You can’t ‘break agile’ when trying something new.
In part, your job as a facilitator is to help teams adapt by inventing their own framework for agility!
In David Kantor’s “Reading the Room” he observes that we all model build.
When we learn a new process, theory or skill set, we imitate first, then we feel constrained, and finally we create something new. We make it our own.
It Starts with Practice
Focusing on upholding the agile mindset means learning how to bridge the divide between principles and practices. It’s what we do in the moment. As facilitator, you’re the one who is able to help a team see where they might be living into the agile values – and where they might not be.
Four ways to practice upholding the Agile Mindset
- Develop a deep understanding of the agile practices and mindset
- Assess how agile the team is and ask, “Am I the right facilitator?”
- Uncover the key for upholding agility with this particular team
- Provide process, not solutions
In my book ‘The Art & Science of Facilitation’ based on the five principles of the Agile Team Facilitations Stance, I take a deep dive into each of these lessons.
Last Thoughts on Upholding an Agile Mindset
Upholding the agile mindset is not about convincing a team to buy into agile. It’s about helping a team focus on how they work.
It’s about looking for ways to improve how they work so that they can be more effective, empowered, enjoy their work, and experience better outcomes.
Agility in action can look different for different teams. What’s needed is a critical reflection about how well we’re doing at any given moment lives into and upholds the core values and principles.