This post is about a major attitude shift that is needed to get you and your teammates working closely together in an agile way – The shift from scarcity mentality to abundance mentality. Scarcity mentality is the thinking that there is a limited amount of resources and you must fight to keep them for yourself. Abundance mentality is the thinking that there are plenty of resources for everyone and someone else having something doesn’t mean you can’t have what you want.

Roles in project teams

Some project teams are formed where each person has a specifically defined role, the scope of work is clearly defined and each person knows what their role is, e.g. PRINCE 2 style of project organisation. Other teams are formed where there is much more ambiguity, and you may have 4 people doing the same role, e.g. team of business analysts on an Agile project. In the latter, being able to work together is more critical than ever if you want to have a productive team.

Being the single person doing a role can create a scarcity mentality

If you’ve been working as the only one in your team with a specific role and then find yourself in a project where you have multiple people doing the same role, you may have built up some behaviours that make it more difficult to work in an Agile team. For example, thinking that you own deliverable X and you fully control it, keep all the IP related to it and should be the contact point for any questions regarding it.

This works fine when you are the only person performing your role within the team, but as soon as you bring in another 2 people and try to share that role as a team role rather than an individual role, this way of thinking manifests itself as a scarcity mentality and creates problems. The unwillingness to share, accept criticisms and allow others to make changes to your work results in a lot of overlap between deliverables and duplication of effort, as team members would rather start again than build upon each other’s work – hindering the productivity of the team as a whole. Consider that Agile projects typically have a lot of ambiguity around requirements and you can see how the scarcity attitude will result in duplicated effort and reduce the team’s productivity.

In an Agile project, the scarcity mentality can also result in politics and team members undermining each other rather than supporting each other. The organisation as a whole loses and the boss will be able to see that the team members aren’t working well together, so nobody wins in the end.

The abundance mentality

Now, change that attitude to an abundance mentality where you know there is plenty for everyone and things change. You don’t feel threatened when others are working on the same deliverable, making changes to something you started and re-socialising it with other project stakeholders. Instead you feel this is excellent because the sooner that piece of work gets done, the sooner the team moves on to the next one. It also means that the deliverable is refined through multiple peoples’ efforts, thus improving the quality of the deliverable and ultimately the outcome for the organisation’s customers.

There’s also the improved cooperation amongst team members. The abundance mentality fosters trust in the team and this leads to a great increase in productivity of the team and improvement in the quality of the work done. You’ll notice that team members won’t hesitate to build upon each other’s work as there is no worry about stepping on others’ toes and upsetting them. When you have people actively seeking feedback from each other, e.g. peer reviews of deliverables, you generate extra ideas and promote innovation. Where you have a team with multiple people performing the same role, the abundance mentality creates a highly productive environment.

So how do you ensure you build the abundance mentality?

Constantly remind yourself that there’s plenty for everyone. That’s the most important thing that will help you build abundance into your daily thinking. This will lead to actions like:

  • Openly seeking feedback
  • Being transparent about what you’re doing and sharing information
  • Seeking assistance in order to meet team goals
  • Working together with your teammates and helping them to reach their individual goals
  • Creating a more productive team

Remember that regardless of what others have you can have what you want, so don’t think about what others have. Instead think about what you can do to help your organisation and how you can come up with something new like all the other pioneers who were ahead of their time.

Further reading

Here are a couple of great articles for you to explore the scarcity vs abundance mindsets further: