The agile mindset - useful?!

An agile mindset can provide assistance on the path towards agile transformation. However, the concept as such is not much help. So what can you do to achieve an agile mindset?

I wish I had the "right mindset"....

The term "right mindset" is currently often used to achieve a demarcation. A demarcation between those who have "got it" and those who run like cows after the dogmatic ringing of the Scrum bell.

Sure, Scrum works especially well when values and principles are truly internalized. The desire for an agile mindset expresses this. We wish that we can work in a community of values where true agility comes to the fore.

This is also how the term mindset can first be understood - as the collective of our personal attitudes, stances and beliefs. Our Mindset develops throughout our lives based on values that are important to us, but also through the positive and negative experiences we have. Mindset acts as a kind of filter and influences how we perceive certain situations, but more importantly, how we perceive ourselves in certain situations. How we approach a decision and what actual actions are derived from it for us is largely determined by our mindset.

If we conceive and understand the term as described here, then the concept is at least clearer. In the context of agile working, the term mindset is then often referred to as the set of attitudes that favor agile working. Freely according to the motto: With an agile mindset, agile work is more pleasant, more effective and also more sustainable.

The agile mindset

These three attitudes are a good basis and qualify an agile mindset:

  • Attitude to change

  • Openness to new perspectives

  • View of learning


In addition to them, we often find values such as respect, cooperation or focus on value creation. These values are also found in the three settings we have selected.

Attitude to change

The most important basic building block of an agile mindset is a positive attitude toward change, because it is a prerequisite for further development and growth, both for the company and for one's own personality. However, it is also crucial to reflect on one's own role within a change process and to recognize that change can be generated from within, i.e., from everyone themselves, and that one is not in the hands of others. Thus, it is also important to see that agility cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution in a company. The environment must be one in which change is welcomed, because only then is it possible to develop intrinsic motivation for change.

Openness for new perspectives

Openness to new perspectives also makes it possible to think and act in an agile manner. Putting on blinders, blocking out the outside world and only following the prefabricated, strictly planned path will not get us where we want to go today. It is better to admit that the world is subject to constant change, which we cannot escape. Thus, for an agile way of working, it is necessary to be open to things that lie outside the current subjective perspective. Having an awareness that not everything is obviously recognizable from the subjective perspective enables agility. Here, interaction with others can be the key to changing and adapting one's own perspectives and thus being able to act in an agile manner.

View of learning

But the view of learning also determines an agile mindset. The questions arise: How do I deal with defeat? Do I give up or do I see it as a challenge and try all the harder? People with a growth-oriented mindset see it as being in their own hands to bring about change and to be able to achieve what they set out to do with effort and diligence. How I deal with criticism also plays an important role in the learning process: Do I prefer to go on the defensive and withdraw, or do I view criticism as an opportunity to look at myself from the outside and work on myself? If one accepts problems and obstacles for oneself as opportunities for learning, further development and growth become possible.

How can I achieve the agile mindset?

Agility in a company means accepting changing circumstances and being open to change. Some people find this easier than others; they are born with an attitude that favors agility or have internalized it over the course of their lives. Others find it difficult, they may see benefits, but not the way to get there.

Now, if I want to attain the agile mindset, then following the Scrum rules is only partially helpful. This is shown by reality and the many half-hearted Scrum environments where people fake pseudo-Scrum or pseudo-agile. And let's be honest, very few have or know a perfectly functioning Scrum team.

It starts with ourselves

Fortunately, a person's mindset is not set in stone. A fundamental prerequisite for the change of mindset is the conscious will for change. Thus, change always starts with everyone themselves. Reflection is a driving factor that enables mindset change. Frequent questioning or reflection is helpful. One can rethink one's own role, ask oneself how one can drive change oneself so as not to fall back into old, hierarchical decision-making structures. This can create an openness that makes it possible to think and work in an agile manner and thus to accept agility as a holistic concept and not just leave it at the term "agility".

Conflicts will arise

If you then go out with your own attitude and try to solve things in the team, conflicts inevitably arise. So conflicts take place here on different levels:

  • Deeper conflicts such as what is the "right" level of transparency in decisions or information, or

  • More superficial conflicts such as whether or not we should estimate or whether to use Scrum or Kanban or perhaps neither approach.


Addressing these conflicts will determine whether you can work in an agile environment yourself, but also whether the company can deliver on the value proposition of agility in the enterprise. So often the environment in which these conflicts occur will determine whether agility can be enabled.

How do you create an environment that enables agility?

When the decision is made that a company wants to work agilely, there should also be a meaningful reason for it. Agility must not be seen as an end in itself, but there must be an objective that requires agility. If the executive decides that there is no reason to work with Scrum, no intrinsic motivation can develop and an agile mindset will not develop in anyone because the meaning behind it is missing. Scrum is not a patent solution for everything, the environment and the objectives must fit.

Change cannot be driven by command from the outside. Instead, a work environment should be created that focuses on the strengths that already exist within the team and pushes them forward. Acknowledging these strengths can open up the possibility for change by providing a sense of security.

Creating security and trust can help to allow change to happen and open people up to it. Only those who can move safely can change. Dealing with mistakes and open communication are also driven by security and in turn condition openness to change. Of course, it is not always possible to get everyone in the company on board and enthusiastic about change. But it is crucial to create enough security so that people do not stand in the way of change and slow it down. Otherwise, further competencies of the manager are required here to seek dialog with the employees in order to get to the bottom of the problems.

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