Agile & Mindfulness – How Slowing Down Will Help Your Team Speed Up

By Tom Shattuck and Patrick Kozakiewicz

The following article will describe how Mindfulness is fundamental for Agile and how actually slowing down will speed things up. We will define Agile and Mindfulness, then discuss Agile values and principles and conclude with how mindfulness is essential for the role of an agile coach, for meetings, and for flow and utilization.  

Becoming agile’ is about the environment, culture and mindset.

Agile – Set of values, principles, and practices that work with our behaviors and creates a great place to work and a great culture.

Mindfulness – Being aware and present of the current experience, both external and internal. It is about being here and now, accepting it is as it is, without judgement, with openness and clarity.

We are all beginning to practice Agile and we all practice Mindfulness, whether you are aware of it or not. We all know moments of complete focus, of accepting reality for what it is (i.e. working on a meaningful task, watching a sunset, etc.). Moreover, if we were not mindful, then crossing the street would be a real game of Russian roulette. However, we spend most of our time lost in thought, dwelling on the past and the future, worrying and doubting and this often creates a lot of time wasted, stress and lack of focus. And this is counter intuitive to Agile.

Agile Values and Principles in the Workplace

Begin with clarity about the outcome, and let it guide every step along the way.

In order to speed up your Agile projects you should practice mindfulness. This requires you to slow down and learn to observe your own intentions, thoughts, emotions and behavior. This is fundamental for not only beginning with clarity but leading to the outcome with it. It also allows you to better understand yourself and your team, as well as to make meaningful decisions and become an agile and more conscious leader. Mindfulness includes attention to detail, the willingness to consider alternatives, and responsiveness to changes and core components of being Agile.

Mindful 2.jpg

Listen, iterate, learn and course correct rather than wait until it’s perfect.

Can you listen, iterate and learn better when you are speeding along or slowing down? Science and research clearly demonstrates that practicing mindfulness increases your ability to listen, to be creative, to focus and enhance awareness of the events taking place around you. It makes you a better learner because you become a better observer. This is core to being able to listen, iterate, learn and be responsive to changes within the company, within your projects and within your teams. Being mindful means being flexible, adaptive and open to changes, which is a key aspect to correcting course and being ahead of the game.

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Build teams with the right skills to encourage self-direction and innovation.

How are you able to build teams if you are speeding constantly? Slowing down, combined with Mindfulness practice, brings self-direction, courage, and innovation to your teams. In Agile, the focus is on the teams and teams require trust, openness and collaboration. Bringing mindfulness into meetings and planning builds team relations, team motivation and team character. Mindfulness unites to get it done. Imagine if during your meetings everyone lacked motivation, was stressed, did not listen and wanted to be everywhere else but here?

What is The Role of an Agile Coach? 

  1. Slowing down to facilitate deeper relations. 

Coach.jpgWhen the team is running around hectic and stressed, the role of the Agile Coach is to step in and bring the team to that place of calm, creativity and community. This means that your awareness needs to be on point. The deadline will come, there is no need to micro-manage the team and stress over it every few minutes. What is more, being a Mindful Agile Coach means you need to be open for change and for developing the team while fostering and encouraging a culture of collaborative responsibility. The goal is for long-term, sustainable output.

2. Slowing down to develop better meetings.

Think about the meetings many people have throughout the week – everyone has their laptops open and is typing away while the conversation drags on, and even the people who have them closed and are in a literal standup, the teams begin to drift off into thoughts of past and future, their to-do list, etc. And if we have our meetings on conference calls, how often do we need to ask for everything to be repeated because we were ‘multi-tasking’ or on mute?

Bringing mindfulness into agile meetings will result in the team really coming together to accomplish something meaningful. This will form a place for gathering where there is a free, open and honest exchange of information by all the people in the room. In situations like this everyone can feel a heightened sense of awareness, excitement and the positive energy that is pervasive throughout the room. Such meetings provide results, results that make the difference we desire. For more check out Mindful meetings.

3. Slowing down to emphasize the process and choices we make.

It is evident that being aware and present of the current experience will help you understand capacity, delivery systems, goals and performance more effectively. By being aware, you are able to have the right amount of people, working at the right pace, in the right sequence, in order to maximize flow. Mindful and Agile thinking eliminate unnecessary processes and artificial boundaries to fuel a culture of collaboration, helping us to focus on what matters most for our teams and to our clients.

Mindfulness does not only have tremendous benefits on your emotional and mental well-being but, when incorporated with Agile, it will also have a dramatic impact on your professional development, teams, projects and clients. So slow down in order to speed up.

Tom Shattuck  is Europe Agile Leader focused on transforming Europe Client Innovation Centers to become agile. He is also an Agile@GTS Champion who believes by fostering and encouraging a culture of collaborative responsibility, IBM can sustain and enhance both performance outcomes and our employees’ personal development and happiness.

Patrick Kozakiewicz  is IT Security Health Check Process Owner, Agile Champion, Global Mindfulness@IBM Community Leader and a Mindfulness Coach@IBM Poland. Patrick believes that mindfulness is the foundation for awareness, emotional intelligence, innovation and stress management and fundamental to bringing IBM to the next level.

For more on working and living more mindfully, visit our mindfulness series.

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