The Agile Mindset workshop

Carolina
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Carolina

Agile Coach at Agile Coaching AR
Life lover and learner. Enterprise agile coach. Casual gamer. Creative Change Agent.
Carolina
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We must remember that the power to direct our destiny comes only from a mindset that makes us willing to struggle through learning, effort, and growth. Brendon Burchard

Having a growth mindset will help us overcome the issues that will likely appear during a transformation, collective and disruptive learning in the teams. This basic guidelines have already been detailed in the Agile manifesto and its 12 principles, it is our starting point in forming and developing an agile mindset as an individual, team or organization.

And when you ask: what do you know about being agile, or the agile manifesto? you will get these responses from many people:

  • I have no idea what it is
  • I can’t see collaboration working here
  • How will I be controlling the results?
  • Maybe in more developed countries but here it’s impossible
  • Sounds like a mess to me
  • Yay! No more documents!
  • How am I supposed to test without docs?
  • … and so on

All valid concerns, of course. And they also give you the hint that the manifesto is still misunderstood or unknownSome teams work with the practices and forget about values and principles. I am not blaming them, that is our job: to guide them towards a better understanding.

A great question

A few weeks ago we were interchanging thoughts and ideas about our jobs with some other colleagues via Slack. And then a question arose about how we are spreading the agile philosophy within the teams we work with:

Are we taking the Agile manifesto and its principles for granted? 

Respond it to yourself.

Now, let’s add more context to discuss about the manifesto and its principles.

Why is the manifesto so important?

Here is the original (and whole) statement, signed by the agile philosophers who dared to defy the way of building software until that moment, in 2001.

I want to highlight the first and third paragraph, which are usually forgotten, and I think introduce us into the idea of this agile mindset. I can read from these lines (these are my thoughts, please state yours in the comments):

  • Their intention was to create some guidelines, not a new method step by step, to experiment creatively. As you can read, no references are made to specifics (scaling, Scrum, SAFe, LeSS, DAD, or roles).
  • These rules set the scene for exploration, learning and innovation.
  • No rule (or any part of it) is better that any of them: I want to say something more about this. I have heard people promoting the right side versus the left side of the rules. Beware of that! Over doesn’t eliminate the following section; plans, documents, contracts and tools are important. You will have all you need of those. And the best part is that you will learn how to be more effective handling uncertaintanty, change, how to collaborate, how to work more creativily with your team, how to prioritise and measure the important things in your project. That is the real meaning of over.

Yes, it may be outdated; and yes, there have been some more trends of thoughts about how to make things differently. And yes, it has built the bases for a growth mindset, too. What we cannot deny is its powerful introduction to a disruptive questioning mentality.

What about the principles?

From the people who did know or had heard about the principles derived from the manifesto, very few had ever discussed their meaning. There are 12 principles behind the manifesto. They help us understand more deeply main 4 rules and encourage us to discover with our client about the expected results, to get early feedback and adapt it for their competitive advantage, delivering working software with the minimun number of bugs possible, achieving technical excellence, being open to explore together with the client and learn from change and experiment.

If I had to summarize the principles in 3 key concepts, these are the ones I would choose:

  • Quality
  • Learning
  • Communication

Now, going back to the original question: Are we taking the Agile manifesto and its principles for granted? I shared my thoughts and approach I take every time I start working with a client, specially one new to agile (or when I feel it is needed) I run this workshop with the teams:

This was a short explanation of the workshop I will be sharing with you below.

 

The Agile Mindset Workshop

Total time: 45-60 minutes

Purpose

The purpose of the game is for everybody to participate and share their opinions, thoughts, feelings, ideas and practical use of the agile manifesto and its principles. They will be doing this by playing a matching game.

Benefits

  • For the team: After facilitating this workshop I observed teams checking their actions and values against the manifesto. They had a constant reminder in a single glance at the wall. For instance, there was a particular ocassion when they were being pressured by a manager to get too many stories done for a sprint, and they pointed out the technical debt would be increased, opposed to delivering technical excellence as one of the principles states.
  • For the coach: Our job gets so much easier by getting to know the people, their reactions, understanding their way of thinking, solving problems and behaving after observing their interactions. We can also help them communicate and collaborate more effectively by playing games like this one.

Objectives

  • Cultivate the agile thinking from the early stages of the transformation.
  • Foster an agile mindset.
  • Understand the meaning of the agile manifesto.
  • Look closer for deeper, hidden or unexplored aspects and applications to their daily work.
  • Team building.

What you need

  • from 1 to 5 teams/pairs (up to 20 to 30 people)
  • agile manifesto and principles cards for each team/pair (download the material in English below)
  • a timer/alarm clock/app
  • post its (or several color papers)
  • crayons, color pencils/markers
  • blank poster (or flip chart blank page) per team

 How to run the workshop

A. Preparation (1-5 minutes)

  1. Explain: the rules and purpose of the game.
  2. Set up the teams: according to the physical space organize the teams (or pairs) for discussion.
  3. Read the manifesto: or even better, ask somebody to help you read the manifesto out loud for all of them.
  4. Deliver the principle cards for each team/pair: ask them to check they have the complete set (the manifesto and 12 principles) before starting.

B. Discussion and matching (20-25 minutes)

  1. Instruction: The participants must match each principle to one of the manifesto’s item.
  2. Set the timer for discussion: Each team/pair must be accountable for the time remaining. Let the conversation begin!

C. Sharing thoughts (15-20 minutes.)

  1. Share results: especially the ones contrasting between teams. Ask what were the conclusions pointed out from the discussions.
  2. Sum up: get the teams to deliberate about their outcomes.  Ask them for examples.

Powerful questions:

  • Do we understand each one of the principles?
  • How can we apply them on a daily basis?
  • Does it really matter to associate every principle to a single rule from the manifesto?
  • How our daily work would look and feel like if we did all this?
  • What are the obstacles we have to overcome to get there?
  • What can we do as a team and individually to contribute to this ideal goal?

D. Making the poster: collaboration (15-20 minutes)

  1. Let the creativity spirit take over: any material they want to use is valid. Foster collaboration and ask them to cooperate altogether in the creation of the poster. All of them must take part. I encourage them to sign it, write their names on it, draw or put the team rubric on it afterwards.
  2. Make it visible: finally we post it into a near wall or door where everybody can see it.

 Additional tips:

  • It is better to have teams/pairs with people who don’t know each other so they can interact more and get to know each other better.
  • The principles have been numbered in case the cards get jumbled up, but these numbers doesn’t mean anything else.
  • When matching, you will notice that sometimes teams want to get “the right answer” or “the right number of matching” (for instance, 3 principles per manifesto item). Don’t interviene, let them figure it out. The goal of the game is to let them talk about it, not to be right or wrong. They will soon be engaged and establish their own method for matching. Just let them work.
  • If you see the game is turning into a desperate matching without conversation for any team ask them for examples or powerful questions to stoke the chat.

Special thanks

I want to specially thank Arif Bobat for sharing with me his feedback, as we had the opportunity to talk a bit more about it, and surely new insights will come from the session he will be running soon. Thanks Arif!

 

 You can check more pictures from the workshop I run in Buenos Aires, Argentina in my Facebook page.

You can also give the same workshop if you feel your team needs a refreshment on this subject too and tell me about your results. Subscribe and download the material.

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