Why Is It So Hard to Become Agile?

Understanding Agile is one thing, being Agile is something different. You can read books, take courses, and attend webinars, but to truly live Agile, you’ve got to follow through with Agile actions. 

It takes real discipline and commitment to live Agile. You’re not just changing a few small things about your work processes, you’re changing your entire mindset and approach.

Think of it like this: If you want to take better care of your health, you can start by reading books on healthy eating, visiting a nutritionist, and buying more fruits and vegetables. But meaningful change in how you feel and look won’t come unless you actively adjust your whole approach to health. You can’t just tinker around the edges and magically look like you do crossfit. 

In a business environment, we need both Personal Agility and Group Agility. Growth in each area can be challenging. But have no fear– we have some concrete ways to tackle any bumps in the Agile road

Personal Agility relates to how we can be Agile as individuals. Typically, folks struggle with the transition to Agile because they’re reluctant to move away from their existing habits and philosophies.

Sometimes, this rigid approach can work out in your favor, but in most cases, it doesn’t. Just because your current habits are producing positive results for this particular project doesn’t mean that you’re actually Agile. 

To find out the true limits of your Agility, you need to test it. Put yourself in unknown areas. Work on unexpected projects. See how well you respond without the crutch of your previous experiences and habits. 

Finding it hard to become Agile? Here are some strategies to try: 

  1. Have an Open Mind. Most people evaluate situations based on their prior experience or stored knowledge/wisdom. Before understanding the problem clearly, they are already crafting their ideal solution. Instead, try to see the situation just the way it is, apart from your own experiences. Leave your preconceived notions behind. 

Charles Kettering, the famed head of research for GM, said “a problem well-stated is half-solved.”

Once the problem is clearly understood, you can bring in your own background knowledge to build a possible solution.

  1. Be Growth-Oriented. Whether you’re an experienced person in your field or you’re starting to work in a new field, maintain a ready-to-learn attitude. There is always someone whose knowledge can help you succeed–be open to feedback and suggestions, and commit to learning. 
  2. Challenge Yourself. Intentionally work on projects that do not suit your personal habits or philosophies to test your Personal Agility. Look for opportunities for growth.

Once you’ve embraced Personal Agility, you’re ready to work on Group Agility

Now, this is typically the bigger challenge for Agilers. Group Agility is an expected outcome of a Self-Organized team, but it can be difficult to find that harmony when there are conflicting mindsets within the group. 

The possibility for discord is why Scrum teams typically go through the four stages of team formation from the Tuckman Model (Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing). By going through this process, teams are able to iron out the kinks in their communication and collaboration, leading to a more consistent delivery of value overall.

As you’re Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing, here are some ways to improve your Group Agility:

  1. Create Excitement to Achieve. Your project goals act as the “wins” that keep the team together and motivated. This is like the dynamic on a soccer team. Every player is committed to performing at his or her best so that the team can pull off a victory.
  2. Foster Team Member EQ. Adequate Emotional Intelligence is becoming a basic necessity in the corporate world. A successful team dynamic demands self-awareness about your own actions and cultivating empathy for others. 
  3. Have a Solid Coach. Good Agile coaches facilitate discussions in the group and create a positive work environment. The right coach/facilitator can make significant improvements to the group Agility. Just like how the right Scrum Master can change group dynamics for the better (or the worse). 
  4. Establish Trust. Lack of trust among team members is the single biggest reason for poor group agility. To help build trust in your team, check out Patrick Lencioni’s theory on the Five Dysfunctions of a Team.   

No matter which stage of Product Development you’re in or what your role is, learning to live Agile as an individual is a core part of what makes Group Agility possible.

You won’t find success as an Agile team without Personal Agility. That’s just a fact. 

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