What makes a good agile practitioner?

The definition of a practitioner is “a person actively engaged in an art, discipline, or profession” or “someone who works in a job that involves long training and high levels of skill”. An agile practitioner is therefore someone actively engaged in practicing agile techniques to help organisations respond to both continued and rapid change; using their high levels of experience and skill in agile approaches to foster an agile mindset within that organisation.

What attributes to look out for in a good agile practitioner

Good, successful agile practitioners are hard to find. You’ll know you’ve come across a good one when they are working in a structured way, methodically breaking down larger pieces of work into smaller chunks that can actually be completed within a reasonable amount of time. Those manageable pieces of work are prioritised around achievable goals and will more than likely move from ordered backlogs to taskboards as they progress towards being done. How the work is identified as “done” is also a deliberate, disciplined process with its own definition.

Good agile practitioners know that trying to plan too much work upfront is often wasteful, instead preferring to identify enough information to get started and then incrementally and iteratively working on a solution. They are able to adapt to change with ease because they wanted the change to happen; they were prepared for it, with knowledge of the right tools, systems and processes in place to embrace the change and make it work for them and the situation that they find themselves in. They are relentless in their pursuit of continuous improvement, believing that there is always something that can be done better, a process that can be improved. They analyse the situations in which they live and work, to identify and remove waste – bottlenecks are targeted and eliminated or moved to maximise flow through a system.

You should expect a good agile practitioner to realise the benefits of team work, appreciating that the divergent thinking that comes from working in a team is invaluable in forging efficient, practical solutions. They will show high degrees of conscientiousness and empathy when working with others; encouraging self-organisation, cross-functional working and setting achievable team goals.

In short, a good agile practitioner naturally lives the principles of the agile manifesto – not just using the jargon or repeating the “this over that” mantra word for word; they live and breathe the principles and, above all else, understand that people are at the heart of what makes agile work.

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