Changing mindset is all the rage in the agile community.
Years of failed transformations which started with practice, methodology or tooling changes are convincing many that changing the hearts and minds of all stakeholders involved in value delivery provides a more safer road to organizational agility.
But how do we change people’s minds? We aren’t trying to change what they do as that results in superficial agility, we want to change how they think about what they do.
Attending a course is not the answer. As Morpheus states about The Matrix: “Unfortunately, no one can be…told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.”
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a red pill that could flip that switch in our heads and turn us into inspiring, empowering, servant-leadership aligned, waste-exterminating leaders?
The Scrum Guide states that a key responsibility of a Scrum Master is “Leading and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption“ and surely a key element of that centers around shifting mindset. Realistically, when teams are struggling to embrace agility, the majority of a Scrum Master‘s efforts are spent coaching them. This is the rationale behind organizations investing in coaching support outside agile teams. But even there, many agile coaches focus their efforts on evolving Scrum Master capabilities or at best working with a few key stakeholders surrounding the project or product release.
But a fish rots from its head.
To institutionalize agility, not just from a delivery perspective, but with regards to portfolio investment making, resource allocation, and operations, mindset change is needed from the top down which means that coaching services should also be targeted at multiple levels of the organization. Having executive leaders who truly walk the agile talk increases the likelihood of senior and mid-level managers doing the same. While it is common for staff to pick up bad habits from their managers, the same holds true for positive behaviors.
How much coaching assistance and time is required to realize a sustainable level of mindset change?
As usual, it depends. Factors such as organization size, current culture and behaviors, external forces, competing priorities and overall sense of urgency will all influence the level and duration of the investment in coaching. However, just as team-level coaching should start heavy and reduce over time as our teams get better at learning to fish, executive and mid-level management coaching should do the same. At some point, just as with delivery teams, leadership teams need to become self-managing and self-disciplined.
Until someone invents a red pill (or more likely, a chip), the best alternative we have is coaching coupled with the power of imitation.