Thinking about your personal agility

Door Patrick Verheij

Do you ever think about how agile you are yourself?

Let’s say you are “into agile”, maybe as a Scrum Masters, a Product Owner, an Agile coach, an agile developer, or any other role of your choice. Then you are probably busy helping people, teams, and perhaps even entire organizations become more agile. Right?

Okay. So that means that you probably eat your own dogfood, don’t you?

But what exactly is that dog food en how does it help you personally?

When I found out about the Manifesto for Agile Software Development sometime around 2002, I recognized a lot of the values and principles in it as pretty much what I was doing at that time in the projects I did: creating transparency, discovering stuff iteratively, reflecting on lessons learned, relying on experts, and the like. However, it challenged me to consider everything I did in a more holistic perspective. It helped me reflect on myself and my effectiveness in the many different things I did professionally at that time and in the years after.

The discovery of the Manifesto didn’t make me agile. It made me discover that I was pretty agile already. And that I could (and should) improve on it.

Here I start defining my personal “agility” as “the ability to adapt as a person when my circumstances change”. Which means that whenever I find myself in a new company, a new project, a new team, or any other new challenge, I adapt pretty quickly. I am able to be comfortable and effective in most if not every new situation I roll into.

That’s rather convenient for the consultant I am!

It also comes with something you could consider as a downside: I am bored pretty quickly which makes me want to step out of a particular context after a while. Fortunately, I also learned that sticking to a challenge has its traits, so I have become much better at being patient and stay put over the last decade. Still, the agility as defined remains.

An extention of my definition of my personal agility would be “the ability to quickly turn lessons learned into improved personal behaviour”. Which then reinforces the prior definition of course. Now it must be said that quite often a lesson reveals itself, but then it slips my attention as does the learning opportunity. Oops. Nevertheless I am frequently and consciously adding things to my behavioural repertoire, despite the frequent slips. Eventually the lessons will come again anyway.

So as an “agile person” I easily adapt to different challenges, different roles, different contexts. My current challenge is to better anticipate on what might be coming so I can adapt upfront instead of as a response to changed market circumstances. I very much desire to be consciously ready when roles like Agile Coach and Scrum Master disappear in the near future. Perhaps such roles will prevail with different names attached to them. Perhaps not. We’ll see what happens.

What’s your definition of personal agility? And how does it matter?

Patrick Verheij

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