Seven ways to foster an agile mindset and culture


Success with agile methodology is more than just telling your teams what you want to happen and hoping they can sort themselves out and start producing results.

According to AgileSherpa’s 2022 report, the biggest challenge for agile teams, reported by 42% of workers, is that people revert back to non-agile approaches. 

This shows that, while companies are adopting agile working practices, they have yet to become fully-integrated with the company culture and people are falling back into what they feel they know or is easier for them.

Agile wasn’t created to be a diktat from leadership telling people what to do and how to do it. It was created to empower workers to make their own decisions, speed up processes, and make everything in the company more efficient and effective.

However, as many product buyers, owners, and managers can attest, change is no easy thing. It requires shifting processes, people, strategies, mindsets, and technology and this simply won’t happen overnight or without careful planning to make it work.

So how do you ensure that you implement agile in the right way so teams are enthusiastic about adopting and don’t just drop it at the first hurdle? Here are the seven ways to foster an agile culture in your organization so you can be agile at any scale.

The seven ways

1. Promote transparency

Agile practices were developed from the ground up to help teams work independently and have the ability to make impactful decisions on what they are working on.

That means it is essential to create a safe environment where team members can speak their minds without fear of repercussions. Agile requires daily stand-ups, sprint reviews, and retrospectives where employees are actively encouraged to share their misgivings.

Without transparency, both with teams sharing their thoughts and leadership sharing their goals, agile methodologies won’t go far. Agile on any scale begins from a place of respect for all parts of the business and that means everyone has their ideas listened to and feels like they can have a say in their workflow.

2. Make it personal

In an agile culture, change is not only accepted but needs to be actively embraced. People need to understand how new tools and working practices will make their lives better, not just the finances of the organization.

If the only thing people know about agile is that it produces results faster, all they think is that they will have to be working more and no-one will get excited about that. Pitch the benefits for them on an individual level and not just the company-wide angle.

3.  Encourage continual learning and improvement

Learning organizations invest in making sure their teams are growing, learning, and always on top of developments in their line of work. That means individuals will excel at adapting to new circumstances, understanding their industry, and teaching this to people around them.

How do you do this? You need to invest in your employees with training budgets both individually and on a team level to keep them sharp and encourage constant reflection on working processes. What went wrong in the last project, what went right, and how can we improve?

If you listen to this feedback and properly act upon it, your teams will naturally begin to think and work like this on every task instead of settling for “it is what it is” with legacy tools and processes.

4. A new kind of leader

Sometimes referred to as “servant leadership”, this focuses on a kind of leadership that is embedded within a team, not above it.

Their main function is not telling people what to do and allocating jobs, but ensuring everyone is organized, on-task, and being capable to fill in any weak point in their team.

They need to ensure the team always comes first, they feel confident in their work and path to achieve their goals, and that every person feels they are in control of their work and not just being told what to do.

Done properly, this style of leadership creates accountability across teams and entire organizations and is one of the core tenets of an agile workplace.

5. Get the right tools for the job

Agile methodology was created and enabled by technology rising to a level where new workflows could be implemented. If you aren’t using that technology in your own attempts at being agile, you are, ironically, trying to swim up a waterfall. 

Technology enables agile by letting teams see how others are progressing, provides actionable data, and enables cross-team collaboration.

That means you should be investing in tools that can visualize workflows, allocate resources, and enable seamless collaboration and communication across your organization.

6. Foster a sense of ownership and accountability

Agile teams are self-organizing, which means they have the autonomy to distribute their own workload and create the plans to reach their intended goals. 

However, this shouldn’t mean responsibility and accountability become just concepts. An agile culture understands that failure is a part of the learning process. Rather than punishing failures, they are seen as opportunities for improvement. Similarly, successes, even small ones, are celebrated to encourage and motivate teams.

When you celebrate the little things and make sure they are always tied to the project as a whole, individuals will start to understand how their work affects the overall objective. Tools for visualizing workflows help greatly with this, and the more it is encouraged then the more people will see their part in the entire process and feel responsible for general success.

7. Stay communicating

When it comes to success with being agile, everything needs to be big and visible. Your goals, your important documents, the long and short term plans. You can’t keep things tucked away in a drawer until someone comes calling for it.

Everyone needs to be kept in the loop about how projects are progressing, and that requires daily meet-ups for rapid quick fire conversations, tools to check on progress on-demand, and people feeling empowered to talk about their pain points and workload.

Without making a deliberate effort for constant communication, agile will fail as your teams will not be responsive, you’ll lose track of the overall objectives, and people can become siloed in their teams without feeling part of something larger. 

Effective communication is key for agile success at any scale, even if it can feel like a chore to meet every day when not much needs to be said. A quick ten minutes to check everything is on track once a day might feel superfluous one day, but when it manages to catch a roadblock that you otherwise would have missed until two days down the road, you’ll be happy for it.

Modular by design, but more powerful combined

Wherever you are on your agile journey, Tempo’s modular and flexible solutions offer the complete suite of tools to support agile at any scale. 

Whether you need to keep your Agile Release Train (ART) on track with Structure or communicate your strategies with Roadmunk, Tempo has the tools for any company looking to develop their agile workflows.

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