Why Do We Fail So Often?


Standing up a scrum team is easy.  Calculating velocity, estimating story points, writing bad stories, doing the daily standup are all just a tiny part of agile. It’s all the other stuff surrounding the Agile teams that makes it really work. About 70% of Agile implementations fail miserably.  They end up as Agifall or Wagile or some other perversion. They completely forget about the customer.

Agile is so much more than you learn becoming a scrum master and really hard to get right. It’s not for the faint of heart.  It’s incredibly transformative and done right will forever change the way your company does business.  It’s all about the customer. The scrum teams and everyone in the corporation, top to bottom, has to be onboard.  It’s not just an new methodology for IT .

When companies set out on the agile path the great majority of them don’t get the fundamental building blocks in place before they start.  The common refrain, ’It’s too difficult and takes too long”.  So they set off creating Agile in a black box.  Doomed.

Why do we screw it up? Because most of us doing the Agile rollout never worked on the business side of the corporation. We’re the IT geeks.  We’ve never worked in sales, we’ve never worked in finance.  Communication plan, huh? Aligning Agile with corporate strategy.  What ??  Is that on the Sharepoint somewhere?  We didn’t learn any of this in computer science class.

So what does really good Agile look like?

The Prime Directive – Create value for the customer and solve their problems and nothing more. No lines of wasted code.

Some of the most important must haves:

  • Trust
  • Co-location.  Not just the same state but the same office space
  • Dedicated work space or ‘war room’
  • Visual tools and management (before the software tools)
  • Product owners from the business (not IT)
  • Customer demos
  • Zero team churn
  • Automated testing
  • Following the Agile rituals
  • 360 buy-in that Agile is the right for the customer/corporation

Don’t think it’ll take a year.  You’re mad.  It’s a change in lifestyle not a journey.  Journeys have ends but Agile will never stop getting better.

Plan the Agile culture rolled out across the corporation.  Get it embedded in the way the ‘C’ suite thinks.  Get the leadership to promote it.  Adopt the ‘Wildfire Model’ (Don Reinertsen).  Move from command and control to the coaching and mentor management style.

Move Agile beyond IT.

  • Sales and Marketing . It’s essential that they understand why it’s good for them
    • The product has to be priced in a way that takes advantage of the iterative release model
    • Their feedback from the customer is valuable
  • Finance has to understand it’s not about hours and figure out new way to measure costs and progress
  • Procurement has to renegotiate contracts with the off-shore body shops.  Its the Agile way or  the highway.
  • HR needs to do their job when it comes to the organizational design. 
    • Set up the org for long term teams and eliminate team churn
  • The whole corporation needs to get why Agile will make more satisfied customers

Agile is like a recipe for an apple pie.  You can’t leave out the apple.

If you get it right, Agile is the best fun you can have work without getting trouble with HR.

Comments are very welcome and I’m sure I’ve missed something, so speak up.

One response

  1. In my experience, the major impediment to true agility in today’s companies is a single word: ALMOST.

    “Almost all of our development teams are practicing agile”
    “We have pockets of excellence”
    “The teams almost eliminated their technical debt”
    “Most teams are still running stand-ups and retrospectives”

    If you’re thinking that you can get real, tangible business benefits by running just a little of the required practices in agile scrum, think again!

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