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Fixed Mindset Versus Agile Mindset

15 June 2015

Mindset: (noun) "A set of beliefs, or a way of thinking that determines one's behavior, outlook, and mental attitude."

"A mindset is a set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by one or more people or groups of people that is so established that it creates a powerful incentive within these people or groups to continue to adopt or accept prior behaviors, choices, or tools."

In my 15 years' experience, I've come across people who think either in terms of the traditional Waterfall framework or the Agile framework. I have classified them as the Fixed Mindset and the Agile Mindset. The following abstract picture depicts how both mindsets like to work.

At a high level, the Fixed Mindset always focuses on how good they are, and they try to demonstrate perfection by acting in a superior manner. By comparison, the Agile Mindset always focuses on how best to learn, which makes them more resilient. They have the ability to help others shine.

Key indicators of the Agile mindset

With thanks to Sunil Mudra at
  • Teams look at failure as a learning opportunity.
  • People are intrinsically motivated.
  • Teams welcome diverse thinking.
  • People have fun at work.
  • Teams work at a sustainable pace.
  • Teams embrace change.
  • Teams practice "brutal" transparency.
  • People are inclined to communicate and collaborate.
  • Teams identify and correct Agile antipatterns.
  • People willingly share knowledge.

Agile mindset enablers

Demonstrate culture change at the top by:

  • Being transparent about challenges.
  • Not treating people as "resources."
  • Practicing servant leadership.

Redefine success criteria by:

  • Focusing on value creation.
  • Asking for the right information.
  • Inculcating team-level accountability.

Encourage continuous improvement by:

  • Establishing systemic or regular feedback.
  • Encouraging positive disruptions.
  • Encouraging fail-fast and learn-fast strategies.

Make the required organization-level changes by:

  • Investing in communication and collaboration infrastructure.
  • Having trust-based policies.
  • Encouraging team appraisal rather than individual appraisal.
In my opinion, the Agile Mindset is critical to an organization's success. It is a necessity, not a choice.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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