Cultivate an Agile Mindset in Your Organization to Drive Performance

Embracing an agile mindset can help you, your team and your organization to more effectively align and act on opportunities. Agile organizations have been demonstrated to be more innovative, and employees tend to be more satisfied with their roles in agile organizations as they better support collaboration, communication and trust. This article summarizes some of the points presented in our recent webinar, which can be viewed on-demand here.

What is an Agile Organization?

Agile organizations respond quickly to changes in the marketplace environment.

Within an agile organization, employees are looking for an environment where they have a voice, and are valued and respected.

Organizations who better shape cultures that connect, engage, and empower workers and teams will be better equipped to innovate.

Pete Behrens

When you change how your organization approaches work and collaboration by applying an agile mindset, and supporting your team’s ability to situationally work with both fixed mindset and agile mindsets, you can help your organization and people achieve performance goals and exceed business expectations.

How to Approach Change? Start by Understanding the Three Pillars of Empiricism

In the Agile Scrum framework, empiricism means your employees and your organization are working together based on observations of reality — an understanding of fact over fiction, and provides a framework to challenge “gut instinct” and the status quo.

Instead, progress is based on observations, interpreted and applied through the “three pillars of empiricism.” These three pillars work together to move your organization forward.

Transparency: Presenting the facts as they are. Everyone knows what is going on. “Transparency means everybody is up front and open about what they’re doing and what they’re trying to accomplish,” says Winston Gillies, Fast Ascension Agile Consultant with AXIOM Learning Solutions. “That will allow us to make better decisions in the long run, because we see things we wouldn’t see if we were siloed.”

“Transparency requires trust,” adds Leeanne McManus, Fast Ascension Agile Consultant with AXIOM. “You cannot have true transparency if there is not already trust. Trust can’t be only words you say — it’s something that’s done.”

Inspection: Evaluate our work and progress. McManus explains, this could be communication or a process, but involves understanding how you reached the next step in your process. “When we go back and look at what we just did, what worked really well that we want to keep doing? What should we stop doing?”

Adaptation: Apply specific changes based on what’s learned during the inspection phase. “Whether we’re working with internal stakeholders or external customers, we have to be able to change and modify what we do,” adds Gillies.

In What Ways do Agile Organizations Drive Performance?

Data shared by McKinsey & Company illustrate show that high-performing agile organizations out-perform non-agile organizations across multiple measures: they are nearly twice as likely to clearly share a vision, a purpose and an entrepreneurial drive, and substantially more apt to illustrate a cohesive workplace community, to sense and seize opportunities, and to employ rapid iteration and experimentation.

The McKinsey data also show that agile organizations embrace a learning culture at a dramatically higher rate than non-agile ones: agile organizations and staff embrace continuous learning at almost three times the frequency.

What are the Obstacles?

The top five challenges faced by organizations transforming to Agile, according to a 2018 McKinsey survey, are:

  1. Transforming the culture and ways of working
  2. Lack of leadership and talent
  3. Establishing a clear vision and implementation plan
  4. Insufficient resources
  5. Overcoming technological bottlenecks

What is Mindset?

As defined by psychologist Carol Dweck, people with a fixed mindset believe that skills and knowledge are innate or fixed and cannot change; people with a growth mindset believe that skills and knowledge are fluid and can be developed.

“It’s not necessarily that one of these is bad and the other is good,” says McManus. “It depends on what you’re trying to do.”

In general, people operating from a fixed mindset focus on what they know they can do well; a growth mindset focuses on getting better at what they can do. Similarly, a fixed mindset tends to avoid challenges, where a growth mindset embraces and learns from setbacks.

How Can Your Organization Embrace Different Mindsets?

When we discuss mindsets, it’s important to understand that each of us will only see how mindset shows in observable behaviors — what we say, how we say them, and what we do.

“If I am someone who doesn’t follow up, that’s observable,” explains McManus. “It becomes a pattern you might see. Or, something I say and how I say it, you’ll take note of that.

“Or, if a leader says, ‘Here’s what I want you to do,’ but they don’t give guidance, and you don’t have all the pieces, that’s observable.”

Underlying mindsets are what affect the behaviors that are observed: what each of us sense, feel, think, believe, value and need.

“You need to be aware of these not just for yourself, but for those you interact with. You don’t know what’s going on underneath — they could be having a bad day, going through a divorce, they could be having financial issues … you don’t know,” explains GIllies.

“If we recognize that, and still assume good intentions as we interact, then we’re not going to be so affected so quickly — we’re going to possibly be able to get them to open up and have a dialogue.”

Mindsets (what we think) are coupled with behaviors (what we do) and values (what we believe). “You cannot change a culture unless each of these are addressed,” says Gillies.

Want to Learn More?

Watch the webinar discussion led by Gillies and McManus on demand here, or contact AXIOM to start a conversation about how our consultants can guide and support your organization’s transformation. AXIOM can support your organization with experiential, immersive and gamified learning, delivered and customized based on your organization’s and your learners’ specific situation, to guide your shift toward innovation and help your company attract, retain and engage your staff. Let’s connect and discuss how AXIOM can help you.

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