I'm currently sitting in Hanover in my hotel room at the Central-Hotel Kaiserhof. A nice, fine hotel - even if it sounds more imperial than it is - at least for a Viennese 😉 Behind me lies a long day of workshops at a software development company. The 19 software developers and managers (i.e. all employees) started a workshop series on agile mindset with me a year ago. Not unusual as far as it goes. Until today.
How it all began
When we got together a year ago, I thought: What do they want? They're already doing a fantastic job. They deliver top software. The customers are thrilled. The development processes run smoothly. Agile working was not just a phrase, but part of their DNA. The employees are satisfied. But they wanted more: more efficient processes, more team spirit, more efficiency, more pride in and more fun at work. But still, there was something missing - even if none of us could name it. And so we set out on our journey.
Everything already there
And how to get started now? Upgrade methodically? Well, let's be honest: Software developers can develop software. And if there's something they can't do, they teach themselves. They use agile methods, too, and they're not witchcraft. You can find them in countless books, blogs, guides and so on. All no secret, fully available and applicable. But the fun starts when agile methods and procedures are adapted via retros and reflect more and more the peculiarities of the teams and employees. This is how the individual agile way emerges. It's always a joy when a team gets into this mode and they themselves design their agile processes more and more until they are so deep in the company DNA that they don't even need to call it "agile" anymore. Then they also have the highly praised "Agile Mindset". But where does that come from? AHA!
Search for clues
Agility - everyone wants it. And if you ask 10 experts for the definition of agility, you get 12 different answers. Stupid, isn't it? No, not at all! Because that's what it's all about. Because behind this little word are hidden other agile values like: Courage, feedback, curiosity, openness, etc. Again, there is no 100 percent defined list - but many similarities. And that's where we can start, namely defining the values: What does openness mean in concrete terms for each individual and for the team? What does transparency actually mean? And what does feedback mean? And what does courage mean? And then in sum: What does agility actually mean? The common answer to these questions is as individual as the company itself!
Side note: Agile methods try to "implement" these values and are, so to speak, the best practices of other companies in the implementation of their agile values. But whether that works for your own team/company is uncertain. If not all courage is the same, then Daily doesn't have to be the same either. Great what comes out of it!
A whole new way
With the values, we are suddenly in an area that is suddenly really "soft" and "personal". And this opens up a whole new dimension: What do I actually have to think about when I live these values? What do I have to believe in? Who do I have to be? What kind of team do we have to be? Reflecting on and addressing these questions no longer has anything to do with agile methods, but leads to only one thing: personal development and maturation of employees. Oha! Suddenly it's no longer about a little more agile please - but about transformation!
"The personal development thing certainly doesn't work for us! We have experienced engineers and developers. And you know, our programmers are also a bit ... well ... peculiar. They certainly don't sit down in a circle, smoking incense and playing stupid games" - Well, even if it doesn't sound very appreciative, that's what some managers think. It's a good thing that personality development has become massively professionalized in recent years, accompanied by findings from psychology and brain research.
In today's workshop, we covered what an agile team needs to think of itself in order to work well - and what everyone believes and should believe about themselves. Not only did this help the software developers form a common understanding of agile teamwork, they also got to know and share ideas with each other on a whole new level. And most importantly, a 25-year-old participant said at the end: "Phew, I really learned a lot about myself today. I wouldn't have thought that. "
And all without a sitting circle, incense sticks and stupid games.