Project Management

Illuminating the Intangibles of Agile

Southern Alberta Chapter

Mike Griffiths is a consultant and trainer who help organizations improve performance through shared leadership, agility and (un)common sense. He maintains the blog LeadingAnswers.com.

We intuitively know that a successful agile adoption requires more than copying agile practices. It needs more than just working in short iterations and having daily stand-up meetings. But can we label those missing ingredients?

You may have seen the “agile iceberg” model that shows the visible practices agile teams perform as the tip of an enormous iceberg supported by a mindset, values and principles. However, terms like “values” and “mindset” are intangible and difficult to reconcile with traditional skillsets.

Organizations fail when they try to switch to an agile way of working by just implementing the visible agile work practices without the invisible supporting components. They fail because they are missing two key elements:

  1. A psychologically safe environment in which to work
  2. Belief in the core agile mindset and values

These factors may sound soft, fuzzy and hard to define, so let’s examine some of the thinking behind them…

​​​1. Psychological Safety
Psychological safety is a subset of emotional intelligence. It is part of working with others and deals with how comfortable we are at interacting, contributing and questioning others at work. In the book The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety, author Timothy Clark outlines a model for understanding psychological safety. As the book title states, …


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"Thus the metric system did not really catch on in the States, unless you count the increasing popularity of the nine-millimeter bullet."

- Dave Barry

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