Niall McShane Niall McShane . Oct 26 . 3 min read


Most of my executive coaching focuses on adjusting, shifting, and changing the coachee’s mental
model and associated mindset so that they can appreciate, understand, and use Agile methods.

Obstacle 6 of our recent Whitepaper is so important that I want to give you more detail on what I mean by mental models and mindsets.

What is a Mental Model?

A mental model and someone’s mindset are related but distinct concepts.

A mental model is the representation or framework of how you perceive and understand the world. It encompasses the various concepts, beliefs, assumptions, and cognitive structures you use to interpret and make sense of information and experiences. Mental models can be conscious or subconscious and influence how you perceive, reason, problem-solve, and make decisions.

On the other hand, your mindset refers to your attitude, perspective, or disposition that shapes
your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours in a specific context. It reflects your overall approach to a
particular subject or aspect of life. Mindsets can be influenced by your beliefs, values, experiences,
and social conditioning, and they tend to be relatively stable and enduring over time.

Here’s what I’d like you to think about;

"Agile requires new mental models and could require you to change your mindset (overall attitude)"

Within the executive team, diversity of opinion, mindset, mental models and perspective helps
produce better collective decisions. BUT when executives are being asked to change how they
behave and think about delivering work, often old mental models, beliefs and behaviours kick back
in and cause problems.

Examples of Mental Models

Examples of mental models relating to Agile delivery are shown below (none of them are ‘wrong’):

Agile is another project delivery method: Everything can be boiled down to time, scope,
cost, a plan and a means to govern milestones with appropriate levels of assurance.

Agile is a means to empower and provide autonomy to the workforce: Everything boils down to employee engagement, if we get that right we will lift productivity, retain the right talent, who will in turn do amazing work for us.

Agile delivery is like a factory that ships outputs faster and more efficiently: Speed to market. Faster response times. Do the same work but get more done in the same (or less)
time. It is all about the metrics, results and quantitative measures that indicate Agile is a
better way to “get stuff done”. 

Agile enables business agility and organisational adaptiveness: Helps us learn faster than
the competition, leading to us outperforming other organisations in our sector. Agile
helps us to better respond to external forces with a lower cost of change.

Agile ensures we build the right products and services: Everything can be boiled down to value (defined by what clients want) realised. Agile enables innovation, experimentation and fosters a culture of intrapreneurship and sensible risk-taking.

My advice on this obstacle is simple; talk openly as an executive team, preferably with the help of a neutral (no vested interest) trained facilitator, about each executive’s mental model. Then work collectively to reach a shared view of how Agile delivery is to be framed for the organisation (what is the overarching WHY behind the transition?).

Often many of the above-mentioned models can be combined into a narrative that best suits
your organisation. By building a consensus on the shared mental model, the executive team will have the best chance to positively shift their mindset and approach the change process.

Also, if the executives are aligned then the rest of the organisation will have a better chance of knowing where the change program is going, why it is being undertaken and how the change will affect their role in the organisation.

Our upcoming blog post covers the executive habit of the Urgent and Important Quadrant. How executives can succeed in agile change programs by maintaining perspective and prioritising urgent and non-urgent work. 


From Hurdles to High Performance: Download our Whitepaper

Executive Habit of the Urgent and Important Quadrant




executives change performance transformation

Source Agility Team meeting Image

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