Is the “Growth Mindset” an Agile Mindset?

In Jeff Haden’s recent post entitled “The One Attitude Every Successful Person Has”, I was struck at how aligned this attitude is with the “Agile Mindset”. What do you think? An Agile Mindset is not reserved for specific people – rather, this is the attitude that anyone can have, but it might require significant changes in what a person believes…which in turn influences how a person behaves in an organization.

I invite you to share in my journey through Jeff’s post as I surface a few themes that resonated with me. I am a relentless and continuous learner, so consider enriching my thoughts in the comments section below, add more themes, or even challenge my thinking:

 

1. The reality is that small accomplishments lead to confidence — and that talent is often overrated.

With an Agile Mindset, we no longer believe that the success of complex endeavors is measured by ‘all requirements on time and within budget’. Instead, the outcomes of success are measured frequently and incrementally in terms of value. Teams that are able to accomplish these small wins along the way (vs. trying to deliver everything at the end) have much higher morale and CONFIDENCE.

Talent could be a competitive advantage, but without this regular feeling of accomplishment, talent is often wasted – sadly, I’ve witnessed situations like these play out as well.

 

2. Those with a “growth mindset” have a much more malleable view on success. They do not view failure as a reflection of their ability, but rather as a starting point for experimentation and testing of ideas.

Add a checkmark to the Agile Mindset. Responsible failure invites learning moments in People, Teams and Organizations. In fact, The Scrum Frameworkuses the pillars of empiricism to encourage fast failure as a way of managing complexity and risk.

 

3. Talent is essentially a head start in the race to mastery — the good news is that any goal worth achieving is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

This aligns with my experience as well. But when this talent is assembled to tackle complex initiatives in a ‘Fixed Mindset’ organizational culture, then it often ends with challenging (or even disastrous) outcomes. Have you ever worked on a long, drawn-out waterfall software development effort with extremely talented people? What was it like? If those same people had formed into Teams in a ‘Growth Mindset’ culture, how might the outcomes have been different? Examining this scenario further, what if a ‘Growth Mindset’ culture had brought less-talented people to the table? Would they have achieved better outcomes than a talent-laden Team in waterfall?

Success is less dependent on the hand you are dealt and more dependent on how you play the hand.

 

4. Focus on creating small wins through changing your habits…nail it, then scale it.

For those who live and breathe the Agile Mindset, this will resonate clearly. I see changing habits as a form of organizational change. For example, those who are new to (or struggling to try and understand) Scrum have to undergo a change in how they think and act. Scrum promotes this continuous learning and improvement opportunity, which leads to the small wins that open the door for healthy scaling of Scrum in an organization. How do you see it?

 

5. A key trait in the growth mindset: a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval.

A long time ago (before my own transition away from a ‘Fixed Mindset’), I had an organizational leader once tell me:  ‘Developers are not allowed to bring any technical books to their desks…we are hiring you all because you’re smart and know this stuff, so you shouldn’t need the books.’

As I reflect on that challenged statement, clearly that leader was lost in the ‘Fixed Mindset’. I find that healthy Agile environments are those where everyone in that situation embodies a passion for learning — delivery teams, product stakeholders, managers and senior leaders. But not just in the interest of learning! Couple this with the hunger for incremental and iterative accomplishments (i.e., achieving short, frequent and valuable goals) and I believe you have a good portion of the Agile Mindset in action.

 

6. If you want to improve in anything, start seeing mistakes and failures for what they are — the way you learn, and improve, and eventually succeed.

Reflecting on this statement, try asking yourself these questions:

How healthy is the ‘Growth Mindset’ in your organization?

How about in yourself?

What can you do to influence your organization to fully embrace this attitude?

 

What insights do you have to share? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below so we can all learn from each other.

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