It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do, we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.
Steve Jobs

Organisations think they are agile. But do they have the right mindset?

There are many textbooks that outline ways to deliver agile methodologies e.g. Kanban, XP, Scrum etc. through new ways of working. Many organisations have teams within their organisation that are working in ‘sprints’ and have a ‘backlog’ of work. Often, they are all qualified ‘Scrum Masters’ or ‘Product Owners’ which gives them the external recognition that they are indeed ‘agile’. However, whilst individuals may deliver the external indicators of an agile organisation, it is unlikely that mindset, leadership styles and organisational culture have changed. It is often the case that empowered agile roles do not feel able to make quick decisions, that the delivery team cannot comprehend customer value and understand the benefit to delivering early, or there is a fear of making decisions without consulting those ‘in charge’. Our view is that for organisations to be truly agile, they must focus on embedding that outcome orientated, business value mindset throughout the establishment. Senior leaders across the organisation must lead the change through their ways of working. By empowering their teams and trusting them to know ‘how’ to deliver, whilst providing the strategic direction so that they understand the ‘why’, they will realise the benefits of devolved governance and decision making.

Mindset does not stop with leaders. There is often an assumption that if a leader steps away and empowers the team, then the team will ‘get-on-with-it’ and ‘fly’ when it comes to achieving the benefits of working in an agile way. However, many teams have worked in a traditional command and control management environment for their entire career and have become accustomed to being told what to do and having their work double, and even triple, checked. This level of oversight and control is reassuring for individuals, and it can be daunting to suddenly be ‘empowered’ to achieve an annual objective when you have never experienced that freedom before. Teams need to be coached in how to operate in an agile way and given the safety to fail or make mistakes. They need to feel protected and supported by leadership especially during and immediately after the transition, it is not enough to focus on mindset at the leadership level, it must be embedded throughout.