Understanding the Psychology Behind Agile

Comparative Agility
3 min readDec 15, 2023

This article was inspired by the webinar Psychology Behind Agile with Stefanie Puckett.

We recently had the pleasure of hosting Stefanie Puckett at the Comparative Agility meetup. Her insightful session explored the psychology behind agile methodologies, and what makes workplace transformations effective and centered around people.

At the core of Puckett’s insights lies a fundamental truth: in most organizations, people inherently understand their challenges and potential solutions. Yet, there is a paradox — while individuals recognize problems, they often lack predefined action plans. Why? Because traditional structures incentivize overcoming obstacles rather than challenging the status quo.

This intriguing dynamic points to a critical need for rewiring individuals’ thinking processes, understanding human nature, and crafting conducive conditions for success. Puckett’s TEC model acts as a guide to understanding and creating the right environments for enabling
solution-centric mindsets.

During the webinar, a simple yet powerful metaphor emerged — a picture of zebras walking down an ancient migration path. The catch? Decades of physical barriers failed to deter these creatures when the fence finally broke down. They instinctively knew their course, demonstrating an innate ability to adapt and succeed. This parallels human nature; we’re wired to identify solutions, respond to change, and tackle challenges.

Puckett adeptly highlighted the “fence” obstructing our ability to act on this inherent knowledge within the workplace. In traditional organizational structures, a divide exists between thinking and doing — management plans, while execution rests with frontline workers. This disjointed approach often leads to ambiguous directives and frequent shifts in direction, resulting in inefficiencies and dissatisfaction.

However, a solution emerges when the map and decision-making power are entrusted to the teams. By bridging this gap, and empowering individuals to make informed decisions based on their close-up perspective, a new synergy is unlocked. Teams no longer merely execute; they strategize and contribute valuable insights, driving efficiency and surpassing management’s expectations.

Puckett’s exploration explored deeper into the Agile Manifesto’s psychological underpinnings, underscoring its impact on both organizational outcomes and individual well-being. Key principles highlighted the intrinsic value of meaningful work and the empowerment derived from autonomy, fostering creativity, commitment, and improved mental health.

A compelling aspect of this discussion centered on the intersection of personality traits with agile practices. Puckett outlined how traits like extroversion, agreeableness, openness to experience, conscientiousness, and personal motivators significantly influence individuals’ interaction with agile frameworks. Understanding these nuances is crucial for fostering cognitive diversity within teams, ensuring a balanced approach to problem-solving and decision-making.

In essence, the psychology behind agile isn’t just a theory — it’s a powerful lens through which we understand, adapt, and optimize our work environments. It champions inclusivity, embraces diverse perspectives, and harnesses the inherent strengths of individuals to drive innovation and success.

The webinar left attendees with a resounding call to action — acknowledge, appreciate, and leverage the inherent psychology at play within our workplaces. By aligning our practices with these psychological insights, we pave the way for a more agile, collaborative, and ultimately fulfilling work culture.

We encourage you to explore The Agile Culture Code assessment created by Stefanie Puckett for Comparative Agility.

The full webinar recording is available here.

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