Embracing and Applying the Agile Mindset (Part 3 of Agile Blog Series)

As mentioned in Part 2 of our Agile blog series – Surviving the Retail Apocalypse with an Agile Approach post, we can implement as many Agile processes and tools as we want, but if an Agile mindset is not also adapted it will be extremely difficult to achieve a successful Agile implementation. According to the 12thAnnual State of Agile Reportconducted by VersionOne, 53% of respondents cited “company philosophy or culture at odds with core Agile values” as the biggest challenge when it comes to adopting and scaling Agile. This challenge is especially prevalent in the retail industry where waterfall methodology has dominated the scene for as long as we can remember.

By definition, a mindset is “the established set of attitudes held by someone.” Therefore, implementing an Agile mindset involves establishing a company culture that embraces and applies the 4 guiding values of the Agile Manifesto. Implementing an Agile mindset allows individual team members to understand why an Agile transformation is taking place as well as the benefits from implementing this drastic, but necessary change.

Here are 5 tips to help retailers embrace and apply the Agile mindset:

  1. Hire an Agile coach

The best way for organizations to successful implement an Agile mindset is to hire an Agile coach. It’s no secret that people are reluctant to change, so having an experienced Agile coach who has the ability to analyze the current company culture and design an iterative strategy will help the organization take the right steps towards a successful Agile implementation. The Agile coach should ideally be someone who has worked in your domain and thus understands the nuances of the industry. They should be able to guide the team to quickly develop an Agile mindset by helping them understand the why behind the Agile values and principles.

  1. Begin with implementing an Agile mindset at the executive level

Top-down support at the executive level is an essential component to a successful Agile implementation. C-level executives should have a deep understanding of how Agile projects are tracked and budgeted, what metrics are used, and what the metrics mean. They should understand that Agile projects focus on delivering a minimum viable product (MVP) followed by small incremental deliveries. This means that the initial product is limited in scope, but then grows organically through added features and enhancements every couple weeks. Breaking down the work like this helps the organization respond to changes in customer needs as well as the direction of the market and helps keep customers engaged. They also need to understand that roadmaps will replace project plans and that team velocity and releases will replace traditional performance metrics such as percentage complete. Upper management should provide an environment where team members feel empowered, trusted, and free to make (and learn) from their mistakes.

  1. Pick an Agile framework

One of the benefits of using Agile is that your team is constantly inspecting and adapting. This means that if a couple of months down the road your team realizes that the selected Agile framework isn’t working for them; Agile is flexible enough to allow you to change an aspect of the framework or try a completely new framework. Since there are many different Agile frameworks (such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean, XP, Scrumban, Scrum/XP hybrid, etc.), it’s important for organizations to analyze the scope/complexity of the project, the level of uncertainty of the project, and the skills of your team members to determine which framework will work best for your team. Just because you choose one framework over another doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with it for the rest of the project.

  1. Set up Agile workshops for the team

Agile workshops ensure that everyone on your team understands the core concepts, implementation strategy and terminology that will be used by your organization. If possible, it’s best to train all of your team members at once to make sure that everyone receives the same message and is aligned on expectations. Agile workshops also allow your team to be exposed to different frameworks, tools, and techniques commonly used by Agile teams. Even though you probably won’t be utilizing all of them, it’s important that your team is familiarized with them in case they need to be utilized in the future.

  1. Inspect and adapt!

If at any point you see that your team is struggling to embrace an Agile mindset with the selected framework, tools, and/or techniques; take a moment, as a team, to reflect on how you can improve and come up with an action plan to make any necessary adjustments. Although it may take months, or even years for your team to successfully “be Agile,” by ensuring that your organization understands, applies, and embraces an Agile mindset you will reap the benefits of Agile from the start.

Please feel free to share any comments, questions, or concerns you may have below. We’d love to hear from you.



Hellen Ospina

Hellen is a Senior Consultant with BRP who specializes in project management and methodologies. Her passion for the Agile methodology in particular has allowed her to contribute successfully to a variety of Strategy, Selection & Implementation projects during her career across Store Systems, Merchandising Systems, and Clienteling solutions. As a certified Scrum Master and Agile Project Manager, Hellen has become a thought leader in how best to adapt Agile approaches in a flexible fashion for both project teams and clients.

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