There's a glut of articles and advice about Agile floating around online. Adoption patterns, education plans, and implementation methodologies abound. But there’s a big difference between doing Agile and being Agile. If your team simply adopts Agile rules without the mindset, you’re going to have Agile challenges. We've done the research and studied the pitfalls for you so you can help your team start sprinting successfully.

Your team may still be clinging to deeply embedded behaviors and perspectives that can inhibit your project's success. Here are 8 thought patterns that need to change for Agile to be successful:

  1. "I can't ask for help." People are naturally reluctant to admit they're having trouble. But if the team doesn't know what other members are struggling with, problems escalate until it's too late to fix them. Encourage teammates to be open about challenges and admit when they don’t know the best course of action.
  2. "I need to do this myself if it’s going to be done right.” Agile is rooted in collaboration. You can't have a team of lone rangers taking charge of tasks independently without involving their colleagues.
  3. “This isn’t in my job description." Your job title and defined responsibilities don't matter in the Agile methodology. (Hence the use of "team members" in place of individual job titles.) What matters is what you can do well and how you can contribute to the project.
  4. “This project is done, so I don’t have to think about it anymore." Agile teams are constantly inspecting and evaluating what they do—and what they’ve done—for lessons on how they can improve.
  5. “If I share my ideas, I might not get credit for them." If your Agile team is going to be effective, everyone needs to get in the habit of actively sharing knowledge to foster genuine collaboration and innovative thinking. Individual credit is not the goal. Project success is.
  6. “I need to stay focused and block out anything that’s not directly related to my work." With Agile, not all interruptions are bad; some are helpful! Stay plugged in to what’s going on with your teammates so you can pitch in or improve your own work through their experience.
  7. "Unstructured = unproductive." Agile embraces the apparent chaos that comes with short sprints and changing parameters. Free form can also mean the freedom to capitalize on unexpected opportunities.
  8. “Failure is the worst thing that can happen." Agile recognizes failure as an opportunity to strengthen your team and your end product, not something that should be dreaded or downplayed. If your team is pushing itself to create truly great, innovative stuff, failure is a valued part of the process.


It's important to note that it’s not just your team that needs to adopt new perspectives— you’ll have to change your management mindset too. Your team needs the freedom to "figure it out" for themselves during sprints, so don't dictate their every step. But you shouldn't be completely hands-off, either: you still need to provide guidance and support. Focus on enabling your team and eliminating any roadblocks standing in their way.

What tips do you have for successfully leading Agile teams? Share your experience in the comments!