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How to cultivate an agile mindset to foster high performing teams

How to cultivate an agile mindset to foster high performing teams

Generally, when you hear the term “agile,” you might think about a person who is fast on their feet, always able to adapt or perform tasks easily. But agile has recently gained popularity as a buzzword in modern workplaces.

An agile methodology refers to project management that’s broken down into smaller phases, most often called sprints. Small businesses and large corporations alike can implement agile methodologies to develop high-performing teams and employees.

Workplace agility also focuses on continuous improvement. This mindset equips teams with flexibility, adaptability, and critical thinking through collaboration. Teaching employees to develop a more agile mindset also improves individual output and productivity, thus increasing the impact on company culture and the success of the business as a whole.

Why cultivate an agile mindset in the workplace?

Employees who adapt to an agile mindset are more likely to think quickly, freely, and creatively. These are vital skills that can help team members handle new workplace challenges, roadblocks, and impediments.

An agile mindset focuses on growth, visualizing what is possible versus seeing problems as irreversible or immovable.

Overcoming problems quickly is essential for any business that aims to achieve growth and success. Cultivating an agile mindset in the workplace not only builds more resilient, dynamic, and productive teams, but it also improves the value that customers can gain, too. That’s because agility often equates to more consistent delivery of products and services that benefit end users.

Agile principles in the workplace

When discussing agility in the workplace, the three main values or principles to focus on include:

  • Iteration: Never stop trying or discovering. In an agile framework, there are always new opportunities for improvement. Teaching teams and employees to continually pitch new ideas and solutions is key to having an agile mindset.

  • Collaboration: Being flexible and able to work collaboratively with others is another critical component of workplace agility. The success of any project requires multiple people and departments pulling together. Genuine collaboration allows for more dynamic and agile teams that work seamlessly with one another to accomplish a common goal.

  • Change: Of course, thinking on your feet is necessary for business resilience. As the old adage goes: “failing to plan is planning to fail.” Cultivate an agile mindset to help employees pivot quickly and move forward during a project, regardless of what happens on the path to completion.

4 tips for creating more agile teams and employees

If we’ve learned anything from the past few years, agility is necessary when any business is facing a crisis. Small businesses and start-ups especially can benefit from building more agile teams, as they often have more to lose if things don’t work out.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, many new businesses managed to stay afloat, and it was likely due to having an agile mindset in the face of uncertainty.

Even well-established companies can benefit from adopting agile methodologies into their workflow practices. It’s never too late to retrain employees and teams, and there are many ways to approach the learning and development process.

Keeping the values and principles above in mind, use these tips and methods when training your teams and employees to be more agile:

1. Focus on listening

Being able to think fast necessitates good listening skills and situational awareness. Finding answers and solutions (or simply having healthy communication habits), requires solid listening skills. Believe it or not, teaching employees to become better listeners can help them embrace agility in their approach to work.

The three levels of teaching listening skills are:

  • Listening to speak: Before we speak, we must first listen so we can have something valuable to add to the conversation.
  • Listening to hear: Another key element to developing good listening skills is active listening. Listen to actually hear what people are saying instead of listening to respond.
  • Listening to understand: The final and hardest level is listening to understand. This level involves genuinely taking and absorbing information in order to fully understand what someone else is saying, or to grasp what they truly mean.

2. Encourage empathy and teamwork

Collaboration is another essential part of building agile teams. The best way to get your employees to work together seamlessly is to encourage empathy.

Being able to understand one another—and spot how key differences actually help us grow—is a crucial part of successful, agile teamwork.

Another way to improve collaboration is to build a Scrum team structure. The Scrum structure is commonly used to develop agile teams. Scrum is a project management framework that facilitates the “agile mindset and allows teams to work together to develop projects.” It provides flexible guidelines for teams to follow as they work together and encourages collaboration.

3. Adopt modern agile methodologies

Many agile methodologies already exist. These techniques have a proven track record when it comes to creating more agile, modern work teams. When training new and existing employees, consider these methodologies and adopt whichever works best for your business model.

Beyond the Scrum method, the other four existing agile methodologies, including Kanban, Extreme Programming (XP), Lean Development, and Crystal.


The Kanban method uses a board divided into columns that show the flow of production. As things develop, information on the board changes and new tasks come into play. According to Atlassian, a leading software provider in the agile space, a Kanban board is:

“An agile project management tool designed to help visualize work, limit work-in-progress, and maximize efficiency (or flow). It can help both agile and DevOps teams establish order in their daily work. Kanban boards use cards, columns, and continuous improvement to help technology and service teams commit to the right amount of work, and get it done!”

A Kanban board can be as simple or as complex as a team needs it to be. In general, most boards contain a backlog (incomplete work), work in progress (WIP), and an output section to showcase completed projects. Many types of teams can benefit from a visual Kanban system, including Product, Marketing, and Engineering.

Extreme Programming (XP)

The XP methodology is more specific and niche, although it can be adapted based on your company's project and programming needs. The XP model emphasizes simplicity, respect, courage, communication, and feedback. Agile Alliance puts it like this:

“Extreme Programming (XP) is an agile software development framework that aims to produce higher quality software and higher quality of life for the development team. XP is the most specific of the agile frameworks regarding appropriate engineering practices for software development.”

XP is often beneficial in scenarios where the software environment is changing frequently or contains inherent risks based on timing and technology. In terms of agility, XP most often excels for small groups or development teams with a lower number of individual contributors.

Lean Development

The Lean Software Development (LSD) method was first created by Toyota. It provides a conceptual framework that highlights principles, values, and good development practices.

In the lean framework, teams prioritize the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) strategy. This means that the group should collectively maximize resources, reduce waste, spend wisely, and optimize development timelines appropriately.

As a methodology, Lean is best suited for teams that want to streamline their development processes. Success depends on having a well-defined process and documentation to back it up, so be prepared to make those organizational changes prior to implementing a Lean strategy.


The Crystal method is actually a series or family of agile methodologies. It focuses on communication, talent, skills, and people. Many agile leaders distinguish Crystal from other agile frameworks, since it prioritizes personal engagement instead of written processes or procedures.

Thanks to its speedy delivery timeframes, the Crystal methodology has been picking up steam among agile communities. While it’s best for teams that want short-term projects delivered in quick succession, it can be adapted to larger teams and longer timelines based on need.

Crystal also prioritizes a team’s ability to have access to subject matter experts and users, whenever those needs arise. The technical environment is designed to accelerate delivery and use reflective improvement as grounds for future work.

4. Foster a growth mindset

Maintaining an effective agile framework relies on the ability to keep all possibilities open for discussion. From the top leaders downwards, this means embracing a culture of positive change and growth.

Adopting a growth mindset in the workplace might look like:

  • Recognizing and rewarding team and personal effort
  • Learning from past challenges and failures
  • Creating a safe space for experimentation and calculated risk-taking
  • Exploring and welcoming new ideas for long-range improvements
  • Honoring collaboration and team unity to achieve a shared vision

Remember—agile methodologies are often associated with “high performing” teams. It’s unlikely that those teams reach the heights they do when restricted by backwards thinking, a scarcity mindset, or limited growth potential. Accepting, sharing, and teaching new ideas is essential for any agile workplace.

Implementing an agile mindset with your LMS

If your company, department, or team is already leveraging an agile method like the ones above, you might be curious how to incorporate this framework into your learning and development goals.

To accomplish more agile processes into corporate training programs, start with a modern learning management system (LMS) like CYPHER.

With CYPHER’s emphasis on collaborative and transformational learning pathways, you’ll be able to capitalize on the following features and benefits:

  • Company-wide upskilling – Learning drives change, and in order to make more impactful changes, such as introducing an agile workflow, agile leaders must get key players on the same page with adequate training. CYPHER’s competency-based learning approach ensures everyone on the team has actional skills for growth.
  • Enterprise integrations – In addition to quicker workflow processes, companies must have the ability to integrate learning with other channels. With help from CYPHER’s integrations, you’ll be able to easily connect other enterprise tools and platforms with your all-in-one learning solution. These connections make it easier for teams to stay flexible and stay informed at every step of the process.
  • Product training – In addition to a human-centric approach to learning and development, CYPHER also empowers product leaders with the ability to quickly create product training in response to product updates. With AI 360, you can create entire, competency-based and gamified courses in just minutes. This means that product teams can achieve improved pipelines and equip employees with actionable skills. It also means that these skills inevitably carry over to the customer experience, promoting better business down the line.

Bringing it all together

The next steps in your agile methodology journey are up to you. In fact, you can readily adopt existing agile methodologies (like Kanban or XP) for project development, or you can simply focus on the three fundamental principles (iteration, collaboration, and change) while teaching your employees to collaborate more effectively.

Start with simple communication. Introduce your staff to agile principles, ramp up to full agile adoption, and regularly evaluate the impact this mindset has on your delivery and workflow.

The ultimate goal? Developing more resilient and productive teams that have the potential to improve value for your customers.

Let’s start learning—together. Schedule a demo to learn more about CYPHER today.