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The Importance of an Agile Mindset

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As part of LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions’ journey to a lean delivery model, I’ve been reflecting on some of the lessons learned, both individually and as a group. Let’s be honest, we aren’t perfect and there are times when more traditional thinking challenges our agile ways of working, but perhaps the biggest learning is the importance of operating with an agile mindset.

Customer needs change.

One of the biggest risks associated with developing products, software or otherwise, is developing the wrong product. Anyone remember the Amazon Fire Phone? Thought not. Those who do probably still regret buying it. Studies suggest that new product failure rates of 30-40% are not uncommon. In software products, failure rates can also easily apply to product features. I’ve certainly added new apps or taken app updates and dismissed (or worse still deleted) them almost immediately when I found the new features to either not be useful to me or not living up to the sales pitch. The same applies in an enterprise environment.

While building LexisOne in the cloud over the last two years, we’ve learnt that customer needs will change over time, so we should always expect that. However, we can’t always predict them and hence through continuous discovery, we’ve changed our own understanding of what those needs are. In doing so, we have minimised the waste of working on things that our users don’t need or won’t use – targeting instead the “right” product features and accepting that the definition of “right” will change.

All this potential change brings uncertainty and some risk, and recognition of this has enabled the teams to appropriately address these, which is one of the key reasons for our success with LexisOne. I’ve seen the default behaviour in other ERP projects – namely relying on previous experience to lock down uncertainty, predict and plan it (as best you can) and ultimately minimise it through mitigation, before it happens. Instead, at LexisNexis we set about creating an environment that engenders an agile mindset – a mindset that embraces changes, making it a key input into the delivery process.

So, what is an agile mindset?

I revisited the research of Dr Carol Dweck during a recent leadership session, and she describes that humans react to situations of uncertainty through two different mindsets – namely Fixed and Growth. People with a Fixed mindset believe that their ability, intelligence and even personality are fixed and cannot change. For example, they may approach uncertainty by relying on what they already know, avoiding challenges, feedback and the risk of failure. A Growth mindset by contrast recognises that those same abilities can be continuously improved by embracing change, seeing uncertainty as an opportunity for new challenges in the knowledge that they can learn and adapt with it. They try, fail fast and learn from that failure to improve. Failure is for these individuals a natural part of learning.

With businesses facing significant levels of uncertainty due to the current pace of technological and socio-economic change, overcoming the challenges will depend largely on the ability of their people to adapt to an agile environment by embracing such a Growth (or agile) mindset.

About the Author:

As Senior Director for Software Engineering Jim Charvill is responsible for the product development function for both the company’s ERP solution, LexisOne; and legal workflow and case management system, Lexis Visualfiles. A specialist in Agile software development and digital transformation, Jim has helped companies to bring the customer view closer to development practices and evolve products to the cloud across several industry sectors such as finance, oil & gas, health & social care and clinical research. He has played a key role in enabling LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions to adopt lean approaches and deliver LexisOne as the first cloud-based ERP system to Fieldfisher. He joined the company in 2016.

Prior to this, he was at Sage, where he held the roles of Director Product Development and Head of Technology. He has also held senior technical roles at Tunstall Group, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group charity (CCLG), among others.

Outside of work Jim is a keen DIYer and house renovator, real ale enthusiast and a regular visitor to the Lakes (his spiritual home) with his family and faithful hound, Charlie.

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