Not to be too fancy, but, a well known Gaelic proverb states, “What e’er thou art, act well thy part”. Some people have attributed that quote to Shakespeare. In actuality, it doesn’t matter who said it, but the principle is pretty important. Another well known axiom is “the sum is greater than its parts”. Both of these ideas apply nicely to agile teams.
In whichever agile framework that you are operating, you are often creating something that is bigger than just one individual. Often times we look to enhance the output of the team without much thought of how our individual contributions fit with that output. We change processes, update rules, or create new policies to make things “run better”, “go smoother”, etc. If you are a part of an agile team, it is much easier for everyone to change a process or policy. Essentially, you are looking to change your environment hoping that the environment will change everyone’s behavior. That approach is understandable, but it also lazy.
To be clear, sometimes environmental conditions need change. But, if you want to really contribute to your success as an individual and as a team member, you need to play your part better. Enhancing your part leads to a greater sum.
Individual Agility Explained
For lack of a better term, I’m calling this Individual Agility. In essence, it is a metric of how well you adapt, incorporate feedback, and fill needs of those around you. An individual that has high agility should be able to change, deliver value, and serve others in various capacities quickly. In a knowledge-based economy, those that have high individual agility will not need to ask “what happens to my job if. . .”. They aren’t concerned about owning specific domains or knowledge areas, or titles. They have a high awareness of others and can identify and meet the needs of a team as they work towards a common value-based goal. They will always be in demand.
In contrast, low-individual agility people constantly fret about what their title is, what their role is on the team, or preserve specific silos of information, processes, or responsibilities. These people will constantly be concerned about the future of their role, because they don’t embrace change, they embrace comfort. They don’t push themselves to learn new things, do new things, or contribute to a team in new ways.
Thoughts on Enhancing Individual Agility
The first step to any undertaking is having the inner desire to change. To be clear, this isn’t motivation in itself. It’s a combination of desire and discipline. Many times, the motivation to improve will not exist. But, an individual has to persevere anyway. That is where discipline comes to play. If you are disciplined enough to follow through on a goal, you can push through.
Creating a valuable product requires intention and inspection. Value comes by meeting a need. Just as the agile team works to produce value, you should inspect areas in which you can provide value to your team. You should be looking for skills that are lacking within the team. Additionally, inspect yourself and look at areas where you can either improve a skill, by either gaining more knowledge, or honing your abilities.
A note on Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
Knowledge and abilities combine to make a skill. You may have some natural abilities, but without applying that ability with some knowledge, it won’t be a skill. For example, I have a natural ability to design graphics and software. However, I don’t have the knowledge and concepts to apply that ability to the context of being a UI/UX designer. Sure, I can create things that look good, but without knowing the principles of good design, my output won’t be fully optimized like that of an actual UI/UX designer. Thus, when you do your inspection, be thinking of either knowledge or abilities that you can improve on to add a skill to the team.
Establish Your Goal
Once you identified a skill that you can work towards, establish a goal for yourself. Keep in mind, this goal isn’t like a New Year’s Resolution. When you establish a goal, think in terms of delivery. What can you produce that would be evidence of that skill? Figure that out and then set your goal within a specific time period (2 weeks to a month). With that goal in mind, your job is to work on that skill in a focused manner anytime you can.
Demo Your Skill
At the end of your time period that you set for you to achieve your goal. You need to show someone what you have done. The reason for this is threefold: 1. It helps you internalize the things that you learned or done when you have to explain it to someone else. 2. It is a chance to help other people on your team learn something new. 3. You gain valuable feedback on your ability which helps you figure out next steps on enhancing your ability.
The Point of It All
Individual agility does nothing more than keep you relevant for your team and company. I can’t guarantee that you will earn more, do more, or climb the corporate ladder with this attribute. But, what individual agility will make you more valuable to your team based on your skills, knowledge, and contributions. As we continue through a technology-driven, knowledge-based, economy, change will continue at a rapid pace. If you are not changing yourself, you will be left behind.
§ Thanks for reading this article. For a productivity hack to help you improve yourself, check out this article here. Not sure where to start in terms of learning a new skill? Review a list of skills here or here. Note, however, I would recommend figuring out a skill that is in short supply on your team.
Also note that the term “team” can be applied rather loosely. You are on multiple teams. You have one at work (or maybe multiple). You are a part of a team at home and in other service/recreational functions in your life.