Discovering our Agile Mindset
Discovering our agile mindset
Being agile is all about being authentic because it focuses on people, teamwork and essentially puts trust at the heart of our delivery process. It encourages us to be brave by challenging the status quo and promoting continuous improvement at all levels: individuals, teams, and organizations. The agile methodologies have also been founded on the premise that developing new and exciting software is undoubtedly a creative process, involving different people with different skills, and certainly not a repetitive, predictable industrial process like manufacturing. This is why I feel agility comes naturally to our tech teams because it fits perfectly with the ASOS values.
How agile we are doesn’t matter
It doesn’t really matter how well we estimate our stories, how sleek our retrospectives are or how efficient our stand ups are. It doesn’t matter how we best forecast our velocity, whether JIRA is a better tool than VSTS, and if our multiple boards radiate the right information.What really matters is whether we are satisfying our customers, our stakeholders, and our employees.
Don’t get me wrong, agility is a beautiful thing and these techniques, practices, and tools are improving many aspects of how we deliver software across the company. Quality, transparency, and productivity are improving as we implement more agile engineering practices within our teams, as we improve our ceremonies or as we gain clarity on the outcomes we want for our customers by writing even better user stories.
The true benefits of agility will be felt when we, as individuals, as teams, and as an organization, can embrace the set of values and assumptions behind the agile manifesto. To put it simply, when we can ‘think’ in an agile way whenever we try to solve complex problems. I agree that this may sound a bit vague, so I’ll try to give you some examples of the core beliefs, which are, in my opinion, part of an ‘agile mindset’:
I understand that some of these assumptions can sound controversial because they directly challenge how most organizations are currently set up and envisage delivering software. For instance, the way that some teams are structured in component teams instead of feature teams prevents them from taking full ownership of the features they are helping to deliver. Or the fallacy that adding more people to a team will invariably lead to more software being delivered (generally, the opposite happens, especially when the reason to add more people is to meet unrealistic deadlines). Another example is the multiplication of job titles across the industry, which unconsciously tends to pigeonhole people in specific roles and prevents their growth in other areas, even though it would eventually help teams deliver better software.
Of course, it would be very tempting to dramatically change our structures and the way we operate, and align them wholeheartedly with these beliefs, hoping that it will automatically trigger an agile epiphany across the organization. Only it doesn’t really work this way — it would be like building a brand new and highly functional office without any foundations. At the first tremor, everything would fall apart. Unless we go through the journey of discovering our agile mindset and what it truly means, any effort put towards implementing new ways of working and new organizational structures would be doomed, and we would have to quickly go back to our old working practices.
It is crucial to start creating the conditions for this mindset to emerge amongst each one of us, knowing that unless we accomplish this, we may never achieve the ideal environment as we grow to continue to foster high-performing teams.
How do we get there?
It won’t happen magically overnight, it takes time and effort from every one of us:
If each one of us manages to slowly shift the way we view work, from a means to pay the bills or a way to flatter our ego, to a place where we have the confidence to come as we are and become better human beings (as well as becoming better developers, QAs, BAs, architects…), we will unleash the extraordinary potential of agility.