Culture change is a key aspect of adopting the agile approach. If an enterprise or organisation is going to adopt agile effectively, it must have the right collective mindset. It needs to embed this mindset in its culture.
My experience as a business analyst has taught me that agile needs to fit into the heart of a company culture if it is to drive lasting change.
But how do you achieve the necessary culture change for the agile mindset, and what is the role of leadership in this?
What Does Mindset Mean?
Mindset is a set of beliefs. These beliefs affect how you think, feel and behave. The American psychologist Carol Dweck has developed a theory where all individuals are on a continuum depending on what their views about ability are.
She defines two broad mindsets as:
- Fixed, and
Those with a fixed mindset believe their abilities are set at a certain level, enabling them to predict where they will be in the future.
Those with a growth mindset believe their abilities can change, and therefore it is impossible to predict what they can achieve.
Generally, people are neither wholly of one mindset nor the other, but a combination of the two.
Mindset governs how we approach work, and it can influence an entire company culture.
Most organisations are a mixture of rigidity and flexibility. Certain aspects of their culture may be open to change, but others will be far more rigid.
And it is usually the type of leadership which sets the tone of this culture.
A Different Kind of Leadership
Agile organisations have leaders at the helm who can define goals and support their teams in achieving them. But this is not command and control leadership.
Instead, it is where leaders take a non-traditional role, giving employees autonomy and providing guidance, rather than laying down the law and enforcing rules.
At the same, time, it is still leadership in a recognisable form. But it is about getting employees to buy into the objectives of the business and the vision of its leaders.
On one hand, leaders define company culture, but on the other, to embed it properly requires that employees take ownership of it.
Good leadership is about listening, not simply directing. Leaders need to be in tune with their employees, if they are going to create the kind of culture in which agile can drive change.
You ensure that teams get the answers and support they need through continuous communication across all functions of an organisation. This encourages and empowers employees at all levels to collaborate openly.
This collaborative openness should still apply in situations where people have very specialised job roles. It is about breaking down silos and maintaining a genuine team-based approach to problem-solving.
Organisations with this kind of open culture are more likely to get the most out of their employees, because they recognise that talent exists at many different levels. It is not something that is defined, or confined, by top-down hierarchies.
This also creates a culture of opportunity, where employees can feel that their input has value, regardless of their rank and place in the organisation.
Approachability Removes Roadblocks
Leadership that is rigid, unbending and defined by rules is unlikely to provide the necessary flexibility to enable teams to thrive.
Being approachable and open to suggestion are not signs of weak leadership, but in fact indicate a willingness to adapt to survive.
To remove the roadblocks to success, leaders need to give their teams the space in which to develop and execute ideas. Even when these ideas fail.
Setbacks are still opportunities for learning.
The agile mindset understands this, because it breaks down large projects into smaller, manageable tasks, which teams can revisit, rework and modify as necessary.
Are You Ready for Culture Change?
Adopting the agile mindset offers huge benefits for businesses and organisations looking to make positive, lasting changes to how they work.
But this is a two-way street. Agile can help transform a company’s culture, but that culture has to also be open to the idea of change in the first place.
What sort of culture do you have, and are you willing to change it to make lasting improvements and enable growth?
If you would like to find out more about how to adopt the agile mindset, please contact me