RefineM Blog

Harnessing the Growth Mindset of Agile during COVID-19

September 28, 2020

Many of us have been feeling the highs and lows of sociallydistant living for the past few months. We’ve been adjusting to this new COVID-19-necessitated lifestyle since March, and we don’t yet know when it will end. Some days are good, some are not so good, and the underlying question for most seems to be “How can I feel like I’m moving forward, when every day feels like the one before?” Despite our Groundhog Day-inspired existence, there are ways to continue progressing, especially when it comes to our work. By utilizing the growth mindset embedded into Agile, we can help ourselves and our teams navigate this challenging time and continue delivering projects successfully to the best of our abilities.  

 It is no surprise that COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on Americans’ mental health. In a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in July 2020, 53% of Americans say stress related to COVID-19 has impacted their mental health (up from 39% in May 2020).1 This increased psychological load has certainly affected job performance, especially for workers who can no longer go into the office. A 2015 survey by Linsday McGregor and Neel Doshi found that employee motivation suffers when employees are forced to work remotely: “…when people had no choice in where they worked, the differences were enormous. Total motivation dropped 17 points, the equivalent of moving from one of the best to one of the most miserable cultures in their industries.”2 In the current environment, when we’re all battling the uncertainty of life in a global pandemic, and we can’t work from an office, employee motivation is undoubtedly suffering.  

Another drastic change brought on by COVID-19 is the type of tasks on which employees are comfortable focusing. McGregor and Doshi found that when workers are faced with significant ambiguity, the default is to focus on tactical tasks rather than strategic ones. This makes sense – if you don’t know what your life or your project will look like in a week/month/year, it’s easier to make sure you’re checking smaller, time-bound items off your to-do list rather than trying to tackle large, complex issues. But this may ultimately hurt the overall organization – in times of uncertainty it becomes even more important to think of the bigger picture, to understand the constraints and problemsolve potential paths forward.  

Organizations and managers should help their employees adapt to this new way of working to continue seeing progress on projects and company goals. If the conditions are right3, work can provide a sense of purpose during uncertain times. According to McGregor and Doshi’s study, if an employee’s work is engaging and they feel empowered to tackle problems on their own or in collaboration with their teammates, this kind of work can be motivating.4 One way to build this empowerment among project teams is to encourage adoption of a growth mindset, which is the idea that we can continuously learn and improve our abilities (versus a fixed mindset, which is the idea that our abilities and intelligence are static and inherent).5 With respect to worker motivation, incentivizing growth mindsets gives managers an opportunity to reward processes, not just results.6 Adopting a growth mindset with respect to your team’s practices can motivate your workers during the COVID-19 era, and will likely continue to benefit your organization in the future 

While there are many ways to incorporate growth mindsets into your teams’ practices, teams that utilize Agile methodologies have an advantage. The Agile principle of continuous improvement highlights the need to regularly reflect on and adjust the teams’ processes, which is essentially a team-driven version of a growth mindset. Agile teams and organizations can emphasize these specific Agile practices and tools to motivate their workers and ensure that project milestones are being met:  

These Agile practices not only give managers and teams a chance to optimize for continual improvement, they also break down larger strategic goals into small, discrete tasks which workers seem to prefer during highly unpredictable times.  

 Working through a global pandemic has forced workers, managers, and organizations to innovate and be flexible in their practices and expectations. At RefineM we believe in caring for the whole person, not just the employee who shows up to work. Mental health is an extremely critical part of our well-being and managers of Agile teams can take the steps outlined here to support their workers’ sense of purpose and motivate them through adoption of a growth mindset. Luckily, Agile readily lends itself to emphasizing continual improvement and growth.

We hope these strategies are helpful, and would love to connect to discuss how your organization or team can implement them. We also invite you to attend our upcoming webinar, Using Agile to Stay Resilient During Challenging Times, for more guidance and discussion of this topic.     

Communication Challenges for Remote Teams Due to COVID-19

September 11, 2020

Due to challenging times in 2020, including the COVID-19 spread, more companies are arranging work from home than ever. A PwC survey in June 2020 indicated that 83% of workers expected to work from home at least one day per week, and 55% of employers anticipate keeping remote work arrangements in place even after the pandemic danger has passed. Remote work is poised to become the new way of working, which means that remote teams are likely to face new challenges.

How can project teams weather the challenges and develop into strong remote teams? A good way to start is to identify and address common communication challenges that remote teams face.

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Retaining your Emotional and Mental Strength during COVID-19

May 29, 2020

We all know how to keep physically healthy, increase our immunity and stay safe from the COVID-19 virus. We are following social distancing rules, washing our hands frequently and eating healthy. But what are we doing to keep ourselves emotionally and mentally healthy?

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How Outcome-Based Agile Transformation Services Can Help You Achieve The Results You Want

Outcomes-Based Agile Transformation
June 19, 2019

We believe Agile can significantly improve a team’s capability to deliver tangible outcomes quickly. In fact, because we are so committed to developing Agile capabilities—and to accelerating business outcomes—we are pleased to offer our clients new Outcomes-based pricing as part of our Agile Transformation practice.

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All About PDUs: What You Need to Know About Professional Development Units

Image of a project manager earning PDUs
February 20, 2019

In the project management community, a common abbreviation is PDU. Go to any Project Management Institute (PMI)® chapter meeting and you’ll hear a lot about PDUs. Research Agile or project management training opportunities on the Web or in your area and you’ll find out even more about PDUs. What are they, who needs them, and how can you get them? This post will answer those questions and more.

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Retrospectives for Agile and Waterfall Teams

Retrospectives for Agile and Waterfall Teams
January 25, 2018

Two challenges that project teams often face are capturing and acting on knowledge during a project and continuously improving during a project. How can teams capture learning in a way that enables them to act on lessons learned before it is too late? What tools can teams use to improve now rather than later?

Learning from experience during a project can be one of the most important parts of the project for teams that struggle to continuously improve. On Agile projects, retrospectives typically take place at the end of each sprint and provide teams a means of exploring what went well and what could have gone better. Teams emerge from the retrospective energized and ready to improve on their next sprint.

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What is a Realistic Timeline for Passing the PMP Exam? [Infographic]

Infographic of the realistic timeline for passing the PMP Exam.
January 18, 2018

Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam Prep Timeline

One common question for project management practitioners looking to achieve their Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification is, “How much time do I need to get ready?” Many candidates do not pass on their first try because they do not allow themselves enough time to study and develop a plan, so you should set a realistic timeline and follow it closely. Having a realistic timeline will allow you to do what you need to do to prepare, including fully reading and understanding A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). Since the exam changes every few years, this timeline can also tell you whether to earn your certification with the old test or wait for the new one.

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Progressive Elaboration Techniques for Agile and Waterfall Teams

Progressive Elaboration Pyramid
November 21, 2017

Teams in the traditional project management mode (or Waterfall) may be hampered by their structure from fully adopting Agile. Despite this constraint, they can still take advantage of many key Agile practices, just in different ways. Read on to find out how any project team can take advantage of the practice of progressive elaboration to move toward early and continuous delivery of value to the customer, satisfying one of the twelve Agile principles.

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Eleven Tips for Passing the Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam

Photo of students studying for the PMP exam.
August 3, 2017

Earning the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification demonstrates experience in project management and the ability to add value to organizations through use of project management skills. One barrier to earning the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is the difficulty of the exam. Learn more about preparing for the exam through these tips, which range from building your study plan to managing exam day itself.

If you’d like to talk to us about your exam prep after reading these tips, get in touch today.
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Agile Practices for Waterfall Teams Part 1: Maintaining a Backlog

Person writing in a notebook next to a laptop computer
March 24, 2017

On a waterfall project, the bulk of the value is delivered at the end of the project. On an agile project, value is delivered incrementally through iterative cycles with the highest-value items prioritized, increasing customer satisfaction. Backlogs serve as the mechanism for clarifying priority on projects carried out by agile teams, allowing them to put the customer’s highest priorities first. How can waterfall teams achieve a similar effect?

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PMI, PMP, CAPM, PMI-ACP, PMI-RMP, and PMBOK are all registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.