When do Agile practices make little sense?

Fabien Dussaucy
The Startup
Published in
5 min readFeb 15, 2020

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A few months ago, I presented Agile methodologies to financial auditors. The objective was to demonstrate why agile is relevant to their activities and to push them to rethink their work with agile principles in mind.
It was much more difficult than expected.

As always when giving this presentation, the first step was to highlight the recurring problems within traditional project management: tunnel effect, delays, cost slippage… However this time, I was surprised to discover that “project” didn’t have the same meaning in the audit sector. Most of the time, auditors follow pre-designed and optimized processes to deliver standardized documents at a fixed date with no or very little admissible delays.

Project has not the same meaning in every sector…

In industries or IT departments, a project consist usually in building something new for a customer (internal or external), where the exact content of the delivered item can never be fully specified and stable throughout the project duration. The scope of a project is regularly updated due to changes in customer needs/priorities, or to hidden complexities discovered by the project team.

Therefore, my “bad project management” statements didn’t echo with their own experience: I was on the wrong track with the “start with why” approach.

Obviously, the rest of the Agile awareness session wasn’t fluid and at the end, the auditors were not convinced by the benefits of Agile practices.

During the “post mortem” of this presentation, we realized that we had not formalized under which circumstance agile is relevant and in which cases it is not.

After a few iterations, we came up with the following synthetic matrix (inspired by Cynefin) to identify when to apply Agile methodologies.

Let’s dig into it.

1. The obvious: Cook an apple pie

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Fabien Dussaucy
The Startup

I write to better understand the world and occasionally myself