Agile Learner: Who Is It and Why Should You Care?
There have been many talks about the “Agile mindset”, but what does that mean? You must have heard a lot about the Agile Manifesto that values individuals and processes over tools; working software over comprehensive documentation; customer collaboration over contract negotiation and responding to change over following a plan. But is this what being Agile means?
Not really. In fact, embracing the Agile mindset is the most overlooked aspect of Agile implementation. What many companies fail to understand is that Agile isn’t just a methodology; it’s a frame of mind. All other investments like collaboration infrastructure, technologies and tools will be hardly effective unless team members become Agile learners and adopt the right mindset.
According to Geri Stengel, Agile learners are better able to work through complex problems drive innovation and grow a bottom line. These three traits characterise an agile learner:
- Tolerance of ambiguity: Comfort with vague or contradictory information and the ability to make decisions when things are uncertain.
- Intellectual curiosity: The extent to which a person is likely to tackle problems in a novel way, see patterns in complex information, and pursue deep understanding.
- Emotional intelligence: The ability to influence, collaborate, and communicate effectively with others and use interpersonal awareness in a way that advances collective goals.
For example, it often happens that we don’t have time and enough information to make a decision. Agile learners accept the situation and do their best with what they have. If something goes wrong, there is no blame policy. And whenever another issue appears, they prefer to speak up so that the problem can be addressed quickly.
When it comes to problem solving, Agile learners are able to find better decisions because they are not afraid to ask for help. They talk to a lot of people, even to people in other functional areas or people outside the company to get as much input as possible and ask many questions to allow for all possibilities.
Agile learners know that communication is the key. They communicate with each other in a variety of ways, both formal (usual staff and company meetings) and informal – they stop by each others’ desks, have lunch together, etc. This is how they increase interpersonal awareness, find out what’s on people minds and as a result can address collective goals more effectively.