The Agile Mindset – change starts in the head of people

The Agile Mindset

Agile is a buzzword already for the last years and there are many famous agile methodologies out there. One key condition to be successful is to start building an Agile Mindset.

Even though methodologies are important it can be often observed that the introduction of agile approaches doesn’t meet expectations. The typical reason is that the relevant mindset changes of the people are not sufficiently addressed.

This article highlights some relevant ideas to get the change process started in your mindset and the mindset of your colleagues.

Why change is Mandatory?

The market and the industry is changing fast and the speed of change is increasing. Not to change or to change slower then the others means that you will be last in a short time frame. This is true for companies, organizational units, teams or individuals. You should work on improving your ability to move quickly and easily or to use another term your agility. And to be agile starts with an agile mindset.

In a fast changing environment agile mindsets and active involvement is mandatory
Who doesn’t move or moves slower compared to the others will soon be in the last place

Introduce an Agile Mindset in an Agile Way

It doesn’t matter where you stand today. You can always improve the way you approach things and you can start now. A one-time project introducing an agile methodology in your IT department will most likely not ensure the desired results. To be successful you have to change the way people think and instill the agile mindset in the corporate culture. This is an ongoing effort mainly because Technology is easy, humans are hard as Hannah Foxwell said at the DevOpsDays 2017 in Zurich.

The mindset drives the changes, methodologies and tools support – not vice versa.


Take small steps, gather feedback, learn as you go and then take the next step. Consider moving towards an agile mindset as an ongoing activity. It probably will never completely finish but can be started immediately.

Focus on Business Value

If you want to move you need to identify the best direction. To do so it is important to look at the business value generated by a company/ organizational unit/ team/ individual. The following questions are relevant:

  • Who is benefiting from or requesting the offering (services, products, …)?
  • How can the number of beneficiaries be increased?
  • Who is providing compensation for the services or products and how much compensation is provided?
  • How can the beneficiaries be convinced to continue and increase the compensation?
  • What is the impact if the offerings are not available?

For many teams, systems or people it is quite difficult to answer these questions in a quantitative or even qualitative way. Think about a system in an investment bank to provide trading information to the regulator. Or a team which operates the continuous integration environment for a large software development company.

Consider the areas which are difficult to assign and clarify as potential candidates for organizational or architecture changes.

People and culture with an agile mindset are the foundation to achieve the desired business value
Agile people and culture are the foundation to achieve the desired business value within the organization and using relevant tools and IT systems
in most cases the current operation provides a lot of business Value

Most of us are in an environment where significant business value – in most cases revenue – is generated every day. To continue this value generation and to maintain and operate the necessary environment in a stable and reliable way is key for the existence of the organization. Modern DevOps setups take care of this fact by ensuring that there is a close interaction and collaboration between operation and change objectives.

Change Things with The highest (additional) Business Value first

For each idea, requirement, wish or anything else which might drive change you should create or obtain a high level description of the related business value. If that business value is clearly visible and the related indicators can be measured – focus on that item first.


Identify and describe the business value for each team or system according to the questions above.

Collect all ideas, requirements, wishes from all involved stakeholders and put them in one list (which you could call backlog). It is very important, that there is only one list, which is for many organizations a large challenge, because there are ticketing systems, innovation pools, management strategies, requirement lists etc. which all contain a part of that information but don’t allow a complete overview. But you have to try.

This list should be sorted by business value provided. Really rank the items and avoid a system with high/ medium/ low or similar – even if you base your ranking on gut feeling. And don’t forget that maintaining the current business value generation for this ongoing operation is very important as well.

Obviously the higher an item goes up in the list. Also the items which are higher in the list should get more attention and a more detailed view of the business value they provide.

Make Teams responsible

You should assume that your colleagues and employees try to do the best for their organization.

With that base it is possible to trust employees to gather information, draw conclusions and take decisions on which actions are necessary to maintain and increase the business value.

If people are then grouped together as a team, the team acts as a safety net. If individuals are losing focus, the team as a whole will steer things in the right direction => four eyes see more then two.

Together with the trust the teams should get the responsibility to achieve certain objectives and business value related performance indicators.

Obviously it requires a learning process for everybody involved to give that trust on the one side and take the connected responsibility on the other side.

Agile teams with agile mindsets motivate, innovate and control
Working together as a team motivates, increases innovation and in some cases also acts as social control


If you don’t have a team organization consider grouping people together to teams.

If you have teams, make sure that the teams get step by step more autonomy and responsibility for relevant performance indicators.

Where possible adapt policies and processes to foster trust and responsibility and reduce administrative hurdles.

Change often – keep changes small

  • If you bring changes faster you can realize benefits and business value earlier.
  • If you make smaller changes you reduce the risk, that the change has a negative effect on the ongoing business
  • The more you practice to change the more experience you will gain and the easier it will become.

In reality there are many obstacles to that approach: external dependencies, lengthy release processes, compliance requirements, policies, target conflicts between groups, …

But even if you are in a situation with monolithic architectures and strong functional organizations you can go in the right direction.


Make productive pilots as soon as possible. Avoid long testing phases without real usage.

Automate things which can be automated, so in case of issues you can fix the process and repeat it instead of fixing the instance. Manual processes are error prone and time consuming.


Change is mandatory because the environments are changing and remaining unchanged becomes a major disadvantage.

To enable change you need to start building an agile mindset and instill it in the corporate culture. This should be an ongoing effort.

To identify the right changes you should work on your understanding of the business value and focus your activities on that.

Form strong teams, trust the people which work with you and give them responsibility.

To make change part of your culture and reduce the risk of changes you should split your changes in small chunks and introduce new changes as often as possible.

Michael Brasse

CTO and Head of the Digital Technology Unit at Atos Consulting Switzerland
Agile thinker, fast learner and optimistic about the future. Interested in all kind of cool technologies, their application in the real world and the implications on society.

Long standing experience as developer, consultant, architect, project manager, team lead and CTO for a variety of organizations in consulting, in-house IT and software product development.

I am also passionate about skiing, and like sailing, cycling and the outdoors in general.
Michael Brasse

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The Agile Mindset - change starts in the head of people
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The Agile Mindset - change starts in the head of people
Don't be afraid to start with agile thinking and applying agile principles in your actions. It is independent of your current situation and your IT environment and you can start doing so now. Focus on the underlying objectives to react faster, increase productivity and reduce risks. An agile mindset and culture in your organization is a key ingredient to be successful in maintaining current and create new business value.
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Atos Consulting CH
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