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Lean-Agile Mindset: Transforming Leadership and Culture

The Lean-Agile Mindset combines the conceptual frameworks of Lean Thinking and the Agile Manifesto, deeply rooted in the beliefs, assumptions, and behaviors of SAFe leaders and practitioners.

The ideas from thought leaders, experts like Womack and Jones, and the Agile Manifesto form the basis for the Lean-Agile Mindset. This mindset is crucial for successfully using SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) methods. It helps change business culture in a big way and gives leaders the tools they need to effectively change their organizations, all to make businesses more agile and able to adapt quickly.

Core Concepts of the Lean-Agile Mindset

Lean-Agile Mindset Awareness and Adaptability

Understanding Mindset Awareness and Embracing Change

What is a “mindset”? It acts like a mental filter through which we see the world. Our brain uses it to simplify, organize, and interpret the vast amounts of information we encounter daily. Mindsets are formed over our lifetimes from both structured learning, like education and reading, and unstructured experiences, such as life events and work. These mindsets exist deep within our subconscious, shaping our beliefs, attitudes, assumptions, and how we perceive the world. Often, we don’t even realize how these ingrained thoughts affect our actions and interactions.

Although many mindsets positively guide us, some may become obstacles and need evolution over time. Changing them starts with recognizing our current mental frameworks and understanding their origins. It’s also crucial to nurture the belief that our mindsets can evolve—this is known as adopting a “growth mindset.” This concept suggests that our abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work.

In the context of transitioning to SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework), changing mindsets is crucial. Too often, organization leaders and teams may superficially adopt SAFe practices without truly integrating the foundational values and principles that signify a profound shift in working methods. This surface-level adoption might yield minor successes initially but fails to bring about significant, lasting improvements. Embracing SAFe effectively requires a commitment to learning and applying the core principles of Lean Thinking and Agile—two methodologies with extensive histories and proven impacts.

These philosophies must permeate every aspect of organizational culture, transforming it into ‘our way of working’ deeply embedded in the enterprise’s fabric. The principles of Lean Thinking and Agile are not just methodologies but become the building blocks for a transformative Lean-Agile mindset within SAFe, guiding language, practices, and decision-making across the board.

Lean Thinking

Implementation of Lean Thinking in SAFe

Lean Thinking aims to maximize customer value while minimizing waste, fundamentally changing the flow of work from batch-and-queue to a continuous, customer-pulled value stream. It is characterized by five key principles:

  1. Value Specification: Understand and define what value means to the customer.
  2. Value Stream Identification: Clearly outline the entire flow of value creation.
  3. Make Value Flow Efficiently: Ensure the value stream flows without interruptions, optimizing workflow and eliminating bottlenecks.
  4. Let the Customer Pull Value: Align production with actual customer demand rather than forecasts.
  5. Pursuit of Perfection: Continually strive to improve the flow and process of value delivery.

These principles are not only theoretical but require practical application within the context of product development to achieve true efficiency and responsiveness.

Agile Mindset

Embracing an Agile Approach in SAFe

Agile is more than a methodology; it’s a mindset that prioritizes flexibility, collaboration, and customer feedback over rigid planning and protocol. Agile was solidified through the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, which emphasizes values like individual interactions, working solutions, customer collaboration, and responsiveness to change. In SAFe, Agile is not confined to software development but extends to various organizational domains, ensuring adaptability and continuous improvement.

Agile Values Highlighted:
  • Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools
  • Working Solutions over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer Collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to Change over following a plan

These values encourage a dynamic and interactive approach to project management and product development, facilitating a deeper engagement with the work process and end goals.

Agile Principles

The 12 principles of Agile, which support the values stated in the Agile Manifesto, are foundational guidelines that help teams implement Agile practices effectively. These principles focus on improving customer satisfaction, embracing change, and delivering high-quality products in a collaborative, supportive environment. Here’s a breakdown of each principle:

  1. Customer Satisfaction through Early and Continuous Delivery: Prioritize the continuous delivery of valuable software, which results in more frequent feedback and the ability to ensure the product meets customer needs.
  2. Welcome Changing Requirements: Even late in development, Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage. This adaptability is key to staying relevant and innovative.
  3. Frequent Delivery of Working Software: Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference for a shorter timescale.
  4. Close, Daily Cooperation between Business People and Developers: Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project. This close collaboration ensures that business objectives are fully understood and met by the development team.
  5. Build Projects Around Motivated Individuals: Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done. This empowerment boosts morale and productivity.
  6. The Most Efficient and Effective Method of Conveying Information: Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication (co-location).
  7. Working Software is the Primary Measure of Progress: Functional software is the ultimate measure of progress. Demonstrating working functionalities to customers provides tangible proof that value is being delivered.
  8. Sustainable Development, Able to Maintain a Constant Pace: Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous Attention to Technical Excellence and Good Design: Enhances agility. Good design and attention to detail allow teams to maintain pace, adapt to changes quickly, and keep the quality high.
  10. Simplicity—the Art of Maximizing the Amount of Work Not Done—is Essential: Focus on what is essential to deliver value and avoid work that does not directly contribute to the goals of the project.
  11. The Best Architectures, Requirements, and Designs Emerge from Self-Organizing Teams: When teams have the freedom to self-organize, it often leads to more innovative approaches to solving problems and designing solutions.
  12. At Regular Intervals, the Team Reflects on How to Become More Effective: Then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly. This principle emphasizes the need for continuous self-improvement and process improvement.

These principles are designed to create a productive and responsive environment that is conducive to achieving high levels of customer satisfaction and effective project management in a changing world.

Lean-Agile Mindset: Conclusion

The integration of Lean Thinking and Agile principles forms the bedrock of the Lean-Agile Mindset in SAFe. This mindset is pivotal for fostering an organizational culture that is adaptable, efficient, and customer focused. By internalizing and applying these principles, organizations can achieve substantial improvements in productivity, customer satisfaction, and overall market responsiveness. Embracing this mindset is not merely about adopting new tools or processes but about fundamentally transforming how individuals and teams think about and engage with their work environments.

The implications of Lean and Agile at scale have been captured in the SAFe Core Values and SAFe Principles articles. You can learn more about the subject on SAFe Website.