When Does Agile Fail ?
Agile can and does fail and it’s not a silver bullet! When I’m training or coaching teams one of the most popular questions I get is “In your opinion, what is the biggest reason Agile fails?”. Now often this question comes from teams who are already using one of the common Agile frameworks in the form of Scrum, Kanban, SAFe, Scrumban and so on. These teams are often feeling pain and have seen some form of failure within their application of “Agile” practices.
My honest answer is simply this. From my own experience the most common reason why Agile teams fail is because people, management and companies see Agile frameworks as Agile in it’s entirety! What does this mean? Well this results in Agile being adopted in the development capacity only which in practice often just means the software teams. What’s wrong with this? Well…..
Agile is a set of principles which result in an organisational shift in thinking to develop and deliver products to meet customer needs.
What often happens is that leadership wants the delivery aspect to be open to change and not to be held over contract should they need to change their mind. In some cases leadership want to be seen to be adopting the Agile for social kudos. In other cases even, leadership see Agile as being able to deliver more or deliver quicker and believe that this is a problem which solely sits with development teams. This doesn’t set organisations up well for meeting employee and customer needs.
Supporting the teams are enabling functions such as finance, HR, Marketing and so on. If these still deliver following linear plans, you will see limited benefit in having Agile teams. Often the phrase passed around for such adoptions is WAgile (Waterfall — Agile). This is where the organisation around the teams still functions using annual budgets, big plans and linear projects and set roadmaps. If you are aiming for your organisation to truly be agile, expect these all to change.
If you want your organisation to be Agile in the sense that you can change direction to the customers needs or changing market, then think about Agile beyond the delivery teams. Embrace a culture of people that work together towards a goal which don’t hold each other to contract, but work together to improve the value to the business and customer needs. Think beyond frameworks. Think bigger than development teams.