The Unspoken Practice of Agility

By: Darren Hoevel

Last week I hosted an Agile Lunch and Learn for a government client. As this client is relatively new to agile principles and practices, our Lunch and Learns have typically been about topics like Kanban, Story Writing, and Agile Roles. This time, however, I introduced everyone to mindfulness.

One person raised their hand and asked, “Did I miss a session or something? What is mindfulness, and what does this have to do with our agile adoption?” 

My answer: Everything.  

By using the term mindfulness, I’m not emphasizing the practices of meditation and yoga (though those things are great and I highly recommend incorporating at least deep, centering breathing exercises into your life), I mean being aware of the impact of your actions and how YOU show up.

Are you aware of how you are affecting the communication patterns of any given conversation? In the language of David Kantor’s 4-Player Communication Model, are you Moving, Opposing, Following, or, Bystanding? In Integral Agile quadrant speak, are you aware of your “I” and how you’re engaged in the “We”? In Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead vernacular, are you rumbling with vulnerability, showing up imperfectly with curiosity and without all the answers? Do you dare say, I don’t know AND I am good enough?  

What all of these models ask, in very basic terms, is Are you aware of how you affect the environment and relationships around you? When you do “you,” what happens to the people and the people constructs (system(s)) around you?

I’ve done coaching for individual contributors, teams, and everything in between, all the way up to the enterprise level. I can say unequivocally that without awareness, connection, and integration there is NO trust–in each other, leadership, and in the organization. Without trust, your “transformation” to agility will not take root. You might organize around value streams. You might adopt technical practices like CI/CD and paired programming. You might do sprints and standups and retrospectives and PI planning.  

But you will not embody agility (from agile with a little a: being able to move quickly and easily). You will not have high-performing teams. You will not have an environment of experimentation and growth. You will not fail small and fast. You will not have adopted the growth mindset that is essential to a transformation. 

Mindfulness–being aware of how you show up and engage in the environment and with the people around you — will gel teams together because of mutual respect and understanding. It will allow everyone to have the opportunity to be a leader, fostering the ability to not only listen to different perspectives and new ideas, but stand in that person’s shoes and feel what they are communicating (unconscious basis warrants a future conversation!). These Adaptive Leadership capabilities will allow leaders and the organization to quickly pivot based on new discoveries and hypothesis discovered during the learning experiences of their teams. 

Because mindfulness (awareness, connection, and integration) creates trust and fosters innovation. 

If you’re interested in hearing more about how mindfulness relates to agile, join me at AgileDC in Washington D.C. on September 23, 2019. https://www.agiledc.org/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *