An agile mind is a flexible mind.
An agile mind is a flexible mind.

What does an agile mind look like?

In a well-articulated post by Stephen Denning on what’s missing from the agile manifesto, the conclusion was that the single most important element of being agile was not included in the manifesto, namely having an agile mindset.

The post highlights a number of very pertinent issues, first of which is the focus on process and tools rather than the values behind agile. It also looks at why traditional management mindsets are inherently not agile, and how during crisis times so many companies fall back into their old habits.

What it doesn’t, however, cover in detail, is what an agile mind looks like, and this is what I would like to address in this post. So let’s jump right in.

What does an agile mind look like?

1. An agile mind is a flexible mind.

An agile mind welcomes and embraces change and is not upset with any change in the workplace that is presented, whether in a crisis situation or not. You easily adapt and get excited when something new and unusual is presented to you.

Whether you have to perform the same old task that you’ve done hundreds of times before or something totally new that you’ve never done before, you welcome it and find a way to make it pleasurable.

You see boredom and irritation as an opportunity to automate or innovate and fear or overwhelm as a challenge to grow. A crisis is seen as the perfect situation to innovate.

An agile mind stops and asks what the goal of the task is before jumping in and doing it. An agile mind first focuses on the best way to achieve the goal at hand and rarely fall into habitual responses.

An agile mind isn’t a creature of habit, and first critically analyze whether steps that made sense previously are still the best way to achieve your goal, knowing that with this iteration you know more than what you did before.

An agile mind constantly looks for ways to do the same work easier and better.

That means you need a lot of tools in your toolset and constantly learn more tools, technologies, and methods and that is where the Scrum Framework and other methods are useful.

It means your brain is actively rewiring itself each time you do work, like a brain gym. And that means a healthy and flexible mind with more roads that lead to Rome than simply the congested highway of past habits.

2. An agile mind is a curious mind.

An agile mind is an open mind that never stops asking questions. Like a little child, an agile mind is infinitely curious about everything and everyone. It never accepts instructions without understanding the purpose behind it and is not afraid to ask to clarify anything that is not clear. An agile mind actively listens when spoken to and ask more questions than what it gives answers.

Just when you thought you knew all the answers, they went and changed all the questions.

An agile mind realizes that there will always be something that you don’t know and isn’t afraid to admit that you don’t know the answer. An agile mind isn’t intimidated being surrounded by people that know more on a certain topic than you. An agile mind believes that two heads are better than one. An agile mind is focused curiously on finding solutions to problems.

3. An agile mind is a focused mind.

An agile mind is disciplined and focused on the goal at all times. It is not easily distracted and it doesn’t multi-task.

When you commit to a task, you put all your energy into the work at hand and you get things done. Regardless of any disruptions around you, you find ways to set your attention on your goal without blaming the disruptions for not meeting a deadline.

You find a way to deliver even when there are obstacles.

You focus on the outcome, not all the reasons why it is hard to meet the outcome, and find creative ways to deliver regardless.

4. An agile mind changes perspective easily.

An agile mind is an empathic mind, and like De Bono’s 7 Hats, is able to change perspective to any of the stakeholders’ viewpoint for a better understanding of the product at hand.

That means that an agile mind intimately knows not only their team members but also their customers and are always finding ways to meet their needs. Whether it is your Product Owner, your colleague responsible for a different part of the code, or the support staff handling customer complaints, an agile mind tries to understand the needs of everyone around them and how they can serve these stakeholders better.

An agile mind cares about how end-users are using their product and how it makes a difference in the world. It is interested in uncovering pain points in the user journey and how to wow and delight.

An agile mind tries to understand, finding the intersections and crosspoints between different perspectives rather than trying to justify or defend their point of view.

5. An agile mind is a simple mind.

An agile mind is constantly looking for ways to simplify, for creating order out of chaos. Whether it is the code base, the product design or the steps to deliver the work, an agile mind is constantly decluttering and making the most of what it has.

Simplicity is the highest form of sophistication. — Einstein

An agile mind is a resourceful mind, being able to deliver with the least amount of resources. It knows that the fewer choices you have, the faster it is to make a decision. It knows that more resources doesn’t in actual fact speed you up and has good judgment to know when to say no, and when to say yes to more. More tools, more procedures, more requirements, even more customers.


It’s relatively easy to do agile. Doing agile is about following the recommendations in the guides and learning the technical skills involved in delivering agile.

It’s much harder, however, to be agile. Being agile, requires mastering the values and soft skills such as responsibility, trust, focus and discipline which will guide your actions and your decisions.

An agile mind has mastered both the technical skills and the soft skills required to enable you to respond to changing needs from your environment and customer.

Originally published on Medium: