Why Agile is not successful in some companies?

I’ve worked mainly for small companies and startups, but often there is a possibility to work for big companies and I took the advantage to know how they work inside. Most of them said in the interview “we use agile methodologies” or even “we use Scrum”… once inside I saw that Scrum or Agile for them is a completely different thing.

For a small company the processes are almost nonexistent. They have flexible agreements. They work day by day and solves the problems when they appear. The use of agile methodologies is needed because people has more than one hat inside the company usually. If they waste time, the company goes down.

Agile is not about processes but agreements between the team, and it’s not about meetings but daily work.

And obviously they have no meetings usually. They use asynchronous communication methods and they rarely need a heads-up call.

So, what’s the problem with big companies?

Too many processes!

If you compare JIRA with Trello you realize what I mean. Big companies use a lot of processes to ensure all of the people working for them are following the same path. That could be great but it’s not agile at all.

If a weird and unplanned situation pops up, that should be scaled up and wait for a resolution. In most of the companies this kind of resolution only gets back to the person some days later.

Following a process, if a problem appears people feel like the system doesn’t work, they loose their faith on it and blame it for wasting time.

The main problem here is the vertical hierarchical organization. There are a lot of middle managers. Agile proposes a change in this level to work small teams forming an horizontal hierarchical organization to make the work easier and more flexible, giving more responsibility to each individual. The responsibility in a huge vertical hierarchical organization is too blurred so, the low level never feels like the problem resolution could be their responsibility.


Too many meetings!

The only way the middle managers know to keep on track with the rest of the team is using meetings. Even without a clear agenda for that. The meetings usually are a waste of time for all of the people attending to them. A meeting is not useful at all when it lasts more than 5 or 10 minutes. Really!

The excuses to stay on a long meeting are:

  • This is faster if we talk about it. False. The only problems that could be solved by just talking are personal problems. To solve professional problems you need to check data, perform research, and make things, not just talk. A lot of people are completely confused between solving issues by talking and speculate about possible problems that caused the issue.
  • We need to sit to talk about it. False. The decisions require time and you have to think with the information in front of you.
  • We have to sync up to do this. False. The tasks should be traced daily and if you don’t communicate your advances in a document, story, ticket, card… whatever, how I can ensure you remember everything you did to keep me on track?

There are more excuses but I think you get my point with just these three examples. For me, the only reason to have a meeting is to solve personal issues, because these issues are better solved face to face.


Finally the problem is the people cannot take part on the decisions regarding the tasks to be done. Or worse, the way those things should be done. As Warren Buffett said:

You can hire good people and let them work, or you can hire cheap people and tell them what they have to do.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

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