Can We Adopt an Agile Mindset While Working a Project?24 Nov 2015

The easy answer is "yeah, it is possible" - just like with anything else, all you need to get it done is put your mind to it. But the real question is: how to get this done without falling behind in the actual work? In other words - how to achieve a goal while making the process more efficient at the same time?

Can We Adopt an Agile Mndset While Working a Project

Import the mindset from elsewhere?

There are more than a few ways of getting there - the most popular one being an involvement of someone with such a mindset (you could call them Change Angents) to drive or manage a project and hope that they will lead the way in not just making the product, but in spreading the thought and value behind Agile among the team at the same time.

Although popular and easy, this is a risky method, as all one-man based experiments can be. With the long-term goal here being that a team adopts a new way of working, the danger lies in them not accepting the Agile Evangelist as their teacher. It's commonplace for people to resist change when it's being ladled on by a strong individual, and in the case of wanting to introduce a long-term change, it might be safer to get the team to adopt the new ways at their own pace.
A decision regarding the best choice would have to depend on the particular team build, nature and history of their attitude towards change.

Take the necessary steps

So, when looking into making the mindset more Agile, the first place you go to would be the Agile Manifesto. Here is what you're meant to be focusing on:
- People instead of processes
- Working product and not product documentation
- User collaboration rather than client negotiations
- Reacting to change over placing the "sticking to the plan" above all else.

These are the basic concepts of an Agile mindset. Keeping them in mind (or possibly on a board that is accessible to all team members at all times) makes it possible to be working on a product while trying to adjust the mental approach to being more Agile.

Who's keeping the AGILE SCORE then?

Seems easy enough, but when put to a test, this asks for being really self-conscious about what you're doing at all times. So, either at this point you have the dreaded Evangelist standing over the team and making objective observations and pin-pointing instances of a “non-agile” approach, or you assign someone from the team to be constantly taking a look at what the team is focused on.
Either way, someone will have to pay attention to this, writing the Manifesto on a whiteboard is just not enough.

Manage the Team Proceedings to Check Their Agility

What else are we meant to be doing?

The other necessary concepts which implementation makes teams Agile is the continuity of Integration, Delivery and Deployment.
This is the core of being Agile - with products being built in an automated way (integration), delivered at the customer's demand and deployed as soon as it is possible. Aside from the method of making this possible, this is how an Agile team can be recognized.
Same as before – it would take a special kind of team to just learn the rules and go ahead with making them reality. Someone will have to watch the team's proceedings and decide whether the all important concepts are being realized.

But wait..

The last "crucial" thing to keep in mind is ensuring that the process you're creating is - just as before - continuously improved. Whether you keep retrospective meetings to assess the effectiveness of the process or you use some kind of an automated metric to measure the progress and throughput - you do need to keep an eye on whether the process is still working in general.
This is being called keeping the process continuously improved.

The final question

It would seem then, that making this big change of implementing an Agile mindset is not possible without some kind of an outside oversight. Being faced with a choice of getting a team member to do the Agile Facilitator's work or employing an actual "Facilitator" can be tough.
It appears, however, that this is the one choice you'll have to make in order to make the team Agile while completing a project.
One more thing - have you stopped to consider how else - if not in a real-project implementation - would an Agile mindset be adopted? Having np obvious answer should give you the necessary confidence boost to grab the team and go ahead with it!

Quick "afterthought"

One more thing - as soon as you get really good at delivering fast and efficiently, you may want to make sure that what you're making is still a demanded and well thought-out product. Just keep this in mind, otherwise you're very good at very efficient delivery of something that there is little need for, which is not ideal.