At AgileCraft we like to have a little fun, and one night, after we were up late building out the new website (I sure hope you like it!), we did a little joshing around about what agile superheroes might be able to do. Could they jump 50 release trains in a single bound? Could they groom a backlog using mind powers? Photoshop, a few beers and some stock photos of millennials with impressive beards got involved, and, well, we ended up with this tongue-in-cheek portfolio of the #WorldsMostAgile humans. And hey – if you can think of any superhuman agile powers, feel free to submit them to add to our collection!
Later that night, I set to thinking about what characteristics really do make up the World’s Most Agile humans. I’ve read about, studied and encountered many successful people over the course of my career in tech, and I realized that the people I admire most are the individuals who are brave enough to take up the mantle of agile leadership. These are visionaries and entrepreneurs who embraced failure as learning, figured out how to respond quickly and created something revolutionary as a result. What sets them apart as agilists are these seven key attributes that they all have in common:
1 - They are Perpetual Learners
Learning doesn’t start or stop in a schoolhouse. Learning is a perpetual state, because the world around us is in a constant state of unending change. The World’s Most Agile humans know that continuous inspection of and response to progress, positive, negative, and everything in between, is the only efficient path to success.
2 - They Remain Flexible and Able to Pivot
The World’s Most Agile humans set aggressive goals and roadmaps, and at the same time they recognize and accept that plans to achieve those can be disrupted at any moment by the rapidly changing marketplace. As a characteristic, they expect that plans will change, and rather than fighting changes, respond to them with new ideas.
3 - They Manage Risk with Fast Experiments
The World’s Most Agile humans don’t stick their head in a haystack when it comes to dealing with risk, and they sure don’t sit around bickering about where a risk belongs in some cube or long-winded mitigation plans. These folks have a keen view of what where risks are inherent in development, and do quick, focused experiments to get enough information to respond, then more forward with confidence.
4 - They Stay Value-Focused
Taking aim and staying focused on value might seem obvious, but so many folks get caught up in the “getting done” that they lose focus on the value that ultimately needs to be delivered. The World’s Most Agile humans know how to define value for every element of work, and how all the players understand how their work contributes to getting this value out the door to the customer.
5 – They Fearlessly Test the Vision and Path Often
More than ever, the world is changing faster than a twister running through a brush covered prairie. The World’s Most Agile humans recognize that this inherent uncertainty makes it important to examine whether previous assumptions still hold, test results are pointing you in the direction you want to go, and that the overall vision still applies to the market’s fickle needs. Questioning the path isn’t a sign of weakness or lack of confidence – it’s a sign of agility.
6 – They Always Learn from Failure
It’s foolish to think that success is a smooth path, lined with guardrails to keep us upright and no roadblocks. Yet, we’ve been conditioned to believe that failure is the reason to stop doing something, when in reality it’s the reason to come up with new ideas and keep trying them out. The World’s Most Agile humans approach failure as valuable learning, take specific lessons from that and apply them as they continue to move forward with their ideas.
7 – They are Challengers Earning Multiple Wins
The World’s Most Agile humans aren’t satisfied with one successful venture – for this caliber of human, it’s about never giving up. There is no pinnacle, there is no peak; there is only the desire to continually improve and look for new ways to execute on a new vision. These dedicated individuals have numerous and significant wins, though they are proud to recognize them as a result of iteration, failure, and learning.
Being an agile human isn’t always the easiest path, but it can be the most rewarding. It’s difficult to get used to the idea of embracing failure, learning, and trying again, especially when the previous generations taught us the value of following rigid plans to rigid goals. The discipline, faith, and tenacity required for true agility means a break with traditional thinking, and accepting the possibility that your idea may end up as something completely different than your original vision. In my next post, I’ll reveal the dream team of #WorldsMostAgile humans who inspired these thoughts.