Understanding the Agile Mindset

In today’s post, I will discuss The Agile Mindset.

You may be thinking, why do they call this a mindset? Isn’t it simply a methodology or framework that is applied to solve a problem? Some clarity is needed to define what is a framework or a methodology. And with that clarity, we will show that Agile is neither.

So, let’s start by thinking about what a methodology is, versus a mindset.

Why a Mindset?

On a high level, a Mindset is a way of thinking about things. It involves ideas and attitudes and is based on principles. In Agile, there are seven principles, which we’ve touched on already here. Agile can be applied using any number of methodologies or frameworks, so long as those principles apply. 

Agile Extension to the BABOK®  Guide – chapter 2.2

Agile is not a framework. Instead, you can think of it as a collection of frameworks that meet a mindset, possibly including frameworks that have yet to be envisioned.

To be Agile implies that there is flexibility for each unique situation, allowing the practitioners and teams discretion to choose what works. Each project is unique, and by selecting an appropriate implementation of a framework – a methodology – that uniqueness is encouraged. 

Mindset – Framework – Methodology

Let’s clarify this a little more. I find it is always useful to give a simple definition.

Mindset – Framework – Methodology

The difference is from general to specific. To start, a Mindset is simply a way of thinking about work. It is a philosophy which shapes decision-making, upon which a value system can be determined.

A framework is a set of concepts and ideas that guide teams. This goes beyond philosophy to defining broad techniques which may be used to define and address the problem.

Finally, a methodology is a specific application of a Framework.

So, if you are working in Strategy, and the organization decides a project needs to use Scrum, that is a Framework decision. However, if it is later determined that the sprints will be three weeks, and that specific elicitation techniques will be used, such as Job Stories instead of User stories, that is defining the methodology.

Applying the Agile Mindset

When applying the Agile Mindset, we need to understand a few things. 

Agile Extension to the BABOK®  Guide – 2.3 Applying the Agile Mindset

One of the misconceptions about Agile and it’s related frameworks, as well as any other project methodology, is that it’s not limited to Information Technology. Agile has been applied to Manufacturing, Retail, Legal, Medical and many other organizational domains.

It is dependent on a few things such as Collaboration, Skill and Knowledge. I think of these as Risk Factors. If these are delayed or ineffective, the results will be sub-par. What jumps out to me on this level is Knowledge because that is something that becomes available just as it is needed, as User Stories or Cards are “groomed.” It also can be viewed as an output or by-product of Collaboration and Skill.

When Agile is applied, value is delivered based on needs, with an iterative delivery, with known expectations on what is delivered, how it will operate and when it will be ready.


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