Succeeding with the Agile Mindset: Seek Value in Failure

Amy Whicker started her career as a computer science professor. She taught many computer languages and the theory behind waterfall and agile. After nine years of teaching, Amy decided to transition into industry, where she played many different roles on agile teams and became an instant agile enthusiast. Amy is active in the agile community. She was one of the lead organizers for the Mile High Agile 2017 conference in Denver and spoke on failure at the 2017 Southern Fried Agile Conference in Charlotte, NC. She now uses her skills acquired as a professor and an agile team member to coach and consult on agile growth and transformation. Visit Amy at

We spend tons of time and money creating frameworks, principles, values, certifications, training, process, rules, governing bodies and other ways to structure how we develop software. Yet with all of this structure in place, we still struggle. Why is that? Well, it’s because agile is a mindset, not a process—and in order to truly leverage agile, we must first understand that.

The agile mindset is one of relentless learning and self-improvement. It is resilient, optimistic and determined to learn from failure. So, the agile mindset is something we ebb and flow in and out of—because as humans, we struggle to be resilient, optimistic and determined to learn from failure 100% of the time. When we flow out of the agile mindset, we enter into a fixed mindset.

The Two Mindsets
The thing to remember about our agile mindset and our fixed mindset is that we all have both mindsets. Maybe we tap into our agile mindset more as we understand agile, yet we will still have our fixed mindset—so it’s valuable to be aware of when we change from one mindset to the other. Because both mindsets are inherent within all of us, there is no shame in having a fixed mindset in moderation. It is useful, however, to recognize it and see it as an opportunity.

Here’s how can we can recognize a fixed mindset:

  1. We avoid tasks that have high chance of failure.

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No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.

- Abraham Lincoln