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Wave 2 Agile: Living the Agile Mindset

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Living the agile mindset means actually doing it, not just talking about it. Living agile is only accessible to those who say yes to personal growth in a big way. If you want different behaviours in your organization, change your own behaviour. This is what Michael K Sahota is calling "Wave 2 of Agile", and invites everyone to join.

Michael K Sahota, trainer and consultant at Agilitrix, gave a talk about living the agile mindset at eXperience Agile 2018. InfoQ is covering this conference with Q&As, summaries, and articles.

Sahota presented what he calls the "waves of agile". Wave 1 is about the ideas: learning, collaboration, responding to change. Wave 2 is about actually living the ideas. Walking the talk; not just talking about these things, but modelling them.

Culture is the number one challenge in organizations. We need the doing and being agile, doing the practices and understanding why we are doing them, argued Sahota.

With agile the leader’s role is pivotal. Sahota stated that "as leaders, we need to learn how to give away power and coach our people in how to receive it".

InfoQ interviewed Sahota about living the agile mindset, and what agile coaches and leaders can do to support it.

InfoQ: How can wave 2, living the agile mindset, look in practice?

Michael K Sahota: In wave 1 we tell business owners that they need to "respond to change" when building the project takes longer than we hoped. But how are we at responding to change? How do we react when someone misses a meeting or appointment? How do we react when someone does not deliver on a commitment? 

If you are normal person, then these situations will cause some sort of emotional disturbance what will limit our ability to "respond to change". If we were living agile, we would flow with these situation and with life. When we are committed to a learning mindset, we see these limitations in ourselves and choose to grow. That is living the agile mindset. It is a place of radical high performance and only accessible to those who say yes to personal growth in a big way.

Let’s take an example of an agile team retrospective. Let’s say we are looking at collaboration between team members. What is the real blocker here? It’s about our behaviours. If we are committed to learning and improving, then of course we will look into our own behaviour and make changes.

InfoQ: What can agile coaches do to help leaders go first with agile?

Sahota: All too often as coaches we fall into a trap. And I know. I lived in this trap for years, so I have some expertise …

The trap is that we ask leaders to do things that we don’t do ourselves. For example, we tell leaders that they need to be coached, but we aren’t getting coached ourselves. But more importantly, it is to look at the places where we are modeling collaboration. Modeling learning ourselves.

A very simple test and guard-rail that everyone can do right now is to "Ask for Permission". A lot of time we end up inflicting help on people who don’t really want it.

Before we can ask leaders to model a new way of working, we need to model it first. Otherwise it just doesn’t make sense.

InfoQ: How can we foster a culture where people pull in change instead of resisting it?

Sahota: Hahaha. There is a lot to say on this…

The simple answer is simple, but will take work to put into practice. We are deeply conditioned by families, education system, and society to push. We push by making people do things, selling our ideas, trying to convince others, evangelize, etc. All this does is create resistance. The secret is to first see these behaviour patterns in ourselves and overcome them. Then we can help others. That is how we create culture - by how we show up.

InfoQ: What’s your advice to leaders who want their organization to live the agile mindset?

Sahota: It is really simple to understand. The organization reflects the behaviours of the leader. If you want different behaviours in your organization, look at changing your behaviours. It is hard, but it is the only thing that will work. People become leaders when they lead. Leading means going first. Every manager and coach has a choice about whether they want to be a leader. So the question is: how ready are you to go first?

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