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You see it all the time: business leaders emphasizing the critical need for their organization to become agile. Informed by the inspiration of seeing other companies that trust in agile, operate with it and reap the benefits of doing so, they hire agile coaches, process consultants, and more to "transform" their organization.

Yet when these coaches and consultants leave, the organization sees little to no long-term improvement. Why is this?

I've seen it come down to one simple reason: lack of trust in agile.

The word "agile" in 2024 brings a lot of baggage with it. What started over two decades ago as a simple agile manifesto and it's basic agile principles has expanded into an industry of processes, certifications, and dangerous amounts of organizational overhead.

How Can Orgs Build Trust In Agile?

Executives looking to transform their organization have a catalog of processes to choose from that "check the box" for agile. In reality, this just amounts to supporting the comfort of ongoing and heavy-handed managerial control throughout the process.

In order to truly transform, organizations need to put in the hard work of shifting their company culture to cultivate trust in the agile methodology and collaboration across the organization. This is slow and difficult; it can take months or even years. 

It requires the organization, notably the leadership, to become comfortable with healthy amounts of intentional ambiguity, which fosters the long-lasting culture required for enabling the production of incredible results.

Here are three exercises you can start doing at your organization today to cultivate trust in agile practices, processes, and ways of working.

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1. Retrospect regularly

Whether you're an executive or a developer on a small project team, you can set a positive example by hosting a team retrospective. Start small; a 30-minute roundtable discussion on what has recently gone well, what you have learned from, and any ideas the team has to improve will start to positively grow trust.

2. Acknowledge the emotions of change

One idea is to start meetings by running through a brief feelings wheel exercise. Acknowledging we are all messy, emotional humans has been an invaluable tool to quickly establish trust; clearing the atmosphere for an agile team to focus on solving problems.

3. Prioritize individual coaching

Your people are your company's best asset for growth and should be invested in accordingly. Nothing is more powerful than a regular one-on-one that focuses on powerful questions that promote transformational growth.

What’s Next?

If your organization is already on its path to building trust in agile, you as the project manager, might be struggling to adapt. Here’s how you can make the transition

It's easy to focus on the tangibles, like agile processes and agile tools. It's challenging yet more rewarding to focus on empowering people in your organization with trust. And in turn, people are what empowers great agile teams. 

Another way increase trust? Make sure you learn more about what your teams do all day.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Digital Project Manager newsletter for more on implementing agile.

Michael Luchen
By Michael Luchen

Michael is the Director of Product at Float, the resource management platform to plan your team’s best work. A forward-thinking, people-focused product leader, Michael brings 10+ years of experience helping teams build digital products for over 50 enterprises, small business, and startups across numerous industries. As a product manager, agile coach, and technologist, he enjoys helping teams improve their collaboration to analyze and solve complex problems.