Companies often have three levels in the management hierarchy: frontline, mid-level, and senior-level leadership. The leaders at each of these levels perform different duties, but no matter where you sit in the organization, agile thinking matters. The term agile was coined in the information technology (IT) field in 2001 and was used to refer to a group of methodologies. However, the utility of agile thinking stretches far beyond IT and has now been adopted by many other fields and departments. The agile mindset allows professionals to change their thinking based on the situation presented to them, and there are numerous benefits to fostering a culture of agile thinking in the workplace:
- Enhances a team’s commitment to its work
- Encourages transparency among team members
- Provides companies with solutions in times of uncertainty
- Fosters innovation by challenging team members to explore other work frontiers
- Creates a climate where employees are more open to diversity and inclusion
- Offers a structure for companies to improve their teamwork capabilities
Agile thinking works to redefine the way teams in a company think, so creating an agile culture is a challenging, longer-term process that can be tedious—but it’s definitely worth the effort. Embedding agile thinking at every level of the company involves five practices:
1. Change employee mindset
Agile thinking has everything to do with shifting the way people think in situations. Thus, the first step to incorporating agile is changing the company’s mindset so that it aligns with agile principles. Simply endeavoring to implement the agile process will not suffice. Agile principles support practices and traits like the following:
- Embracing change in all dimensions
- Individual motivation
- Interpersonal conversation
- Consistently delivering on expectations
The way to change the mindset at every level of the company is through encouraging self-governance, discovering purpose, and gaining mastery.
2. Foster a learning culture
There is value in learning from other organizations that have successfully embedded agile thinking in their culture. Because it is always good to learn from experience, as a leader, you could invite department heads from these companies to talk to your team about how they were able to achieve agile in their workplace.
3. Measure results
Once you begin the process of integrating agile thinking in your company, you will want to measure your progress. It is often said that the things that get measured get done. Measurement should be done to evaluate how agile thinking can be scaled up. The best way to do this is by observing changes in employee behavior. You will know you have achieved agile thinking when your employees make decisions that align with agile principles.
4. Go small, then accelerate
When you begin the agile transformation, we recommend that you start small and scale up over time. How you introduce the process will define how readily employees embrace this new transformation. If you move too fast at the outset, you risk sparking resistance. You need to progress slowly and keep fine-tuning the approach you use as you go. Such an approach will not only get you results but will support the transition process of employees undergoing this change throughout the organization.
5. Document the process
As you move your organization into an agile state of being, it is important to document the process. Even though your current team will have developed an agile mindset at this point, new employees will inevitably become part of your team at a later date and the process needs to be easily explained and well-documented for their benefit. The best way to document is to write the process, convert the Word file to PDF, and then encrypt the documentation for safekeeping.
You will only achieve an agile culture by using the agile process and practices regularly and consistently and encouraging teams as they make the transition. If you try to move too fast, your staff will be hit by culture shock and the evolution to an agile workplace will stagnate. If you want to get everyone on board with this approach, strive to offer continual support and exercise patience with teams that are struggling to catch up. While it may take you some time, you will end up with a workforce that is independent, accountable, and trusting in its management.
Gust Author Bio: Sienna Johns
CMOE guest authors are carefully selected industry experts, researchers, writers, and editors with extensive experience and a deep passion for leadership development, human capital performance, and other specialty areas. Each guest author is uniquely selected for the topic or skills areas they are focused on. All posts are peer-reviewed by CMOE.