One of the mantras of the agile community is that you need to "be agile," that you need to adopt an agile mindset. Agilists will often point to the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, commonly referred to as the Agile Manifesto, as a good starting point to understand this mindset, which it is. Other mantras within the agile community include respecting others and having a safe environment that embraces diversity. All wonderful ideas, but what do you do when they collide with one another?
The Disciplined Agile Mindset
Figure 1 depicts the Disciplined Agile (DA) mindset, which is captured in the form of principles, promises, and guidelines. Disciplined agilists believe in the DA principles, so we promise to adopt these behaviours and follow these guidelines when doing so. Where the Agile Manifesto addressed the environment faced by software developers 20 years ago, the DA mindset addresses the environment faced by organizations today. The DA mindset reflects our learnings over these past 20 years, adopting great ideas from a wide range of sources, in particular ideas around lean and flow, to describe concepts that enable enterprise agility.
Embracing Different Mindsets in the DA Tool Kit
One of the promises of the DA mindset is to create psychological safety and embrace diversity. Interestingly, when you do that you soon realize that people often have very different mindsets and that this is a very desirable thing. Yes,we want people to embrace an agile mindset so that we all share a similar point of view, but that's only one of many points of view. There are still noticeable differences between the way that you approach something and the ways that others do, even when everyone involved has an agile mindset. This happens because we are all unique people with unique experiences and backgrounds, and as a result you have other points of view than just the agile mindset.
I'm sure that you've noticed that finance people have a different perspective than people from marketing, whose perspective differs from data management professionals, which is different yet again than research and development people, and so on. Each business function tends to attract, and then reinforce, people of a certain mindset. Some people find legal work incredibly interesting, whereas others find it spectacularly boring. To each their own.
This is where it gets interesting. Remember that DA is a tool kit that supports improvement across all aspects of your organization, not just software development. One aspect of the architecture of the DA tool kit is that we've captured the different business functions within your organization as process blades, which in turn are described in terms of mindset, people, flow, and practices. Process blades include Finance, Strategy, Legal, Marketing, Security, IT Operations, Portfolio Management, and many more. Regarding mindset, for a given process blade, we extend the base DA mindset with philosophies that are applicable to that process blade. For example, Figure 2 depicts DA's People Management (Human Resources) mindset and Figure 3 DA's Security mindset.
There are several important points to this strategy:
- DA respects and embraces a diverse range of viewpoints. To truly support business agility, you need an approach that recognizes that different groups within your organization have different ways of thinking, different concerns, and different priorities. The DA tool kit captures that as specific mindsets for each process blade. As always, context counts.
- To work effectively with others, you need to understand their point of view. The philosophies captured in the mindsets of each process blade provide insights into how people in those job functions think. This improved understanding will help you to bridge the gap between you when you first begin to communicate and collaborate. For example, it can be particularly frustratingly working with Security people, particularly when they are stopping you from doing something or are forcing you to follow a more security-oriented WoW. Understanding the philosophies captured in Figure 3 can help you to appreciate what Security professionals are trying to achieve, and why they are doing so.
- This supports process improvement across disparate teams. Agile teams are semi-autonomous in that they need to collaborate with others sometimes to get things done. For example, my team needs to interact with Finance to fund a new endeavor. Although we want to accomplish this in a streamlined and agile manner, the Finance team is currently more traditional in their approach and as a result injects cost and risk into the overall process. By understanding the mindset of Finance, and hopefully Finance investing time to understand the mindset of my team's function, we'll be better able to negotiate a new way of working (WoW) to experiment with. This sort of skill, facilitating process improvement efforts across disparate teams, is a critical skill that we team in the Disciplined Agile Coach (DAC) certification.
Just like one process does not fit all situations, one mindset doesn't either. The Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit explicitly embraces mindset diversity. Do you?