Applying the Agile Manifesto to Build an Agile Mindset

How does the Agile Manifesto apply to your personal and professional life? Discover the essentials of this methodology with Full-Stack Developer and KWANer, Laís Ortiz.

First of all, I think it’s important to start this article by demystifying what Agility is after all.

When we read the word “Agility”, it’s common and understandable to confuse it with “Speed”. However, although there is a relationship between the concepts, the two don’t mean the same thing.


Agility isn’t about doing things in the shortest time possible, but in a flexible and adaptable way, which consequently generates faster and more satisfactory results.


According to the definitions:

  • Agility: ability to accelerate, decelerate, stabilize, and quickly change directions with proper posture;
  • Speed: ability to move the body in one direction as fast as possible.


And in this article, I will explore the values and principles of agility and explain how agility perceives each of them.


The Agile Manifesto


To understand Agility, whether in personal or professional life, it’s important to cite the guide to it all: The Agile Manifesto, with its four values and twelve principles. This manifesto was created in 2001 by 17 professionals who realized why customers and teams were dissatisfied with deliveries, and it basically proposes that we do things in a simpler way.


Agile manifesto’s values


Throughout this section, you can see that, while processes and tools are indispensable, agility values individuals and interactions more when building team values.


1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools


More than sticking to predefined processes or tools designed to solve each type of problem, the agile mindset preaches that it’s more important to value the interactions with each individual and the diversity of multidisciplinary teams. These are teams composed of people with different backgrounds and skills with the purpose of aggregating different experiences both in the discovery stage and in the delivery stage. 

Maintaining interaction with teammates can bring benefits such as: exchange of experiences, different points of view on the same problem, openness for sharing ideas, and productive discussions that often result in answers to the questions presented or even generate debates that had not even been previously identified. 

Therefore, achieving a balance in interactions seems to meet business, technical, and human needs. 🙂


2. Working software over comprehensive documentation


Despite the importance of documenting all the steps and business situations of a project, it’s much more interesting for the customer to have a working software, even with limited functions, so that they can validate the usefulness of the product. To meet this value, continuous delivery becomes an intrinsic idea of Agility, which means frequently delivering value to the customer.

It’s important to point out that, unlike the agile methodology, in the waterfall methodology deliveries are made only at the end of the development and testing cycle for functions are previously documented in a comprehensive manner, taking the risk of arriving at the moment of delivery and the product no longer being needed or being outdated or out of compliance with the present, due to the fact that the focus has been more on documenting functions than on continuously delivering versions of the project and fostering discussions about how well the product meets the customer’s needs. 


3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation


Negotiating contracts is certainly an essential part of product development and requires a lot of strategy so that both parties don’t feel harmed by the agreements. However, negotiating contracts aggressively wears down the relationship with customers, so ensuring a good relationship with the customer is more important than spending all the team’s energy on negotiations. 

To apply this value of the agile methodology, it’s recommended to include the customer in the daily routine of the project, bringing them closer to the agile team, so that they gain a greater visibility and transparency of the planning, development, testing, and deployment processes and, mainly, a macro view of the problems that arise during the processes. Thus, the customer can understand them better, since they are present in the team’s everyday life and already follows the work routine. In addition, we can say that by maintaining a good relationship, the need for extra charging, and other small negotiations during the project becomes more visible and valuable to the customer.


4. Responding to change over following a plan


This value arises to avoid the thinking that guides the traditional methodology, where the scope is defined at the beginning of the project and remains the same until the end. Unlike it, the agile mindset implies that, in the agile methodology, the team can’t stick to the initial plan in order to deliver a product that makes the customer really satisfied, since it runs the risk of delivering an outdated product.

This way of conducting agile work allows the customer to expose pains and needs during any point in the project’s execution and define the value items to be changed or added, which enables the continuous improvement of the products, as described in point 2 (working software over comprehensive documentation).


Agile manifesto’s principles

  1. Satisfy Customers Through Early & Continuous Delivery;
  2. Welcome Changing Requirements Even Late in the Project;
  3. Deliver Value Frequently;
  4. Break the Silos of Your Project;
  5. Build Projects Around Motivated Individuals;
  6. The Most Effective Way of Communication is Face-to-face;
  7. Working Software is the Primary Measure of Progress;
  8. Maintain a Sustainable Working Pace;
  9. Continuous Excellence Enhances Agility;
  10. Simplicity is Essential;
  11. Self-organizing Teams Generate Most Value;
  12. Regularly Reflect and Adjust Your Way of Work to Boost Effectiveness.


These principles are interconnected, but in no specific order, and we can also link them to the 4 values stated in the previous section, which are based on good coexistence, good practices, and continuous improvement.


How to absorb the agile mindset?


Initially, to change any way of thinking that may already preexist in us, we need OPENNESS and FLEXIBILITY.

Openness to new ideas, to give new meaning to the way we face work and the team on a daily basis, to new create behavioral patterns, and to everything that is intrinsic in us for unknown reasons or not.

Flexibility to adjust to new ideas, new ways of solving the same problems, and new ways of analyzing the problems to get new insights that had not yet been considered.

According to the book Emotional Agility by Susan David, there are some ways to achieve the agile mindset, such as:

  • Turn resistance to change into adaptability (adapting to change over following a plan);
  • Untangling. Rethink the answers, listen, think, analyze, and ponder;
  • Choose courage over comfort. When we have a pre-existing answer, we need to have the courage to deconstruct;
  • Apply agility in work, and don’t use pre-existing thoughts in decision-making.


Mental models according to Carol Dweck


Another book that can be cited on this matter is Mindset by Carol Dweck, where she explains two types of mindset:

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In other words, in the fixed mindset, things are as they are and can’t be changed, and failure is seen as an endpoint to the attempt, keeping the same line of thinking and observation for all problems. 

On the other hand, in the growth mindset we must open ourselves to new things, reevaluate situations differently than they have always been, and believe in improvement; failure is seen as something natural, and more failures lead to more learning. In this mindset, fulfillment comes from learning new things, from understanding that mistakes exist and can be corrected, and that everything that already exists can also be improved.

In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. So instead of thinking, ah, I’m going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow, here’s a chance to grow.” – Carol Dweck.


Applying the Agile Manifesto to build an agile mindset: final remarks


In this article, we explored the agile mindset, which can basically be defined as a flexible and adaptable mindset (agility, not speed). I also stated the 4 values and 12 principles of the agile manifesto, which was created by 17 professionals with the purpose of improving employee and customer satisfaction by executing tasks with simplicity.

Furthermore, we also saw that there is no magic formula to absorb the agile mindset, but the author Susan David presents interesting considerations to incorporate it. Similarly, I also presented author Carol Dweck’s contribution to the understanding of the two types of mindset, with a focus on the agile mindset.

I hope I have contributed to your reflections on this topic that is being talked about so much these days, and if you enjoyed this article, be sure to explore other tech articles available on the blog, such as the article I wrote about Elasticsearch or this one about Synthetic Data.