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Agile Fails

Yesterday I posted a blurb on LinkedIn and Facebook about why I believe some organizations are reporting diminished returns when using an agile project approach. I thought I'd take a moment or two to get on my soapbox and expand upon my observations as to why that might be.

1. They really aren't doing agile.

Here are the heavier hitters I see regarding this point:

I observe companies diluting the simple Scrum approach to projects along with the roles and responsibilities. They let the Product Owner off the hook and instead insert the business analyst. Now, before I get a barrage of complaints about that sentence, let me explain. BAs definitely have a place on the development team. (I think I smell another blog post coming soon about that!!!!) In addition, BAs make PERFECT Scrum Masters. However, a BA is no substitute for a good ol' fashioned Product Owner. Agile removes the barrier between the business and project teams and fosters collaboration. Agile moves the team closer to the end user. "It's all about the conversation" is my favorite agile mantra. Inserting the BA as a go-between or the business' spokesperson is Waterfall!! Do not let the business off the hook.

In addition, I worked with a couple of organizations that had moved to agile in IT but the business really knew nothing (yes - as in NADA) about it!! *sigh*

Another practice that dilutes agile's potential value is in making the daily Scrum or "stand up" a status report to the Scrum Master (whew - do you smell that?? #ScrumSmells). Daily Scrums are meant to inspect the last 24 hours and adapt practices, approach, teamwork, etc. for the next 24 hours. Inspect, Adapt; Inspect, Adapt; Inspect, Adapt.... get the picture?

Ilene Jones commented on LinkedIn that she'd add that teams aren't letting go of their Waterfall requirements. The team (and governance) hasn't changed their thinking. They expect the same deliverables as a Waterfall project and pound away trying to make the square peg fit into the (agile) round hole. This also is a great segue into #2....

2. They aren't attending to organizational change.

I could literally write a book about this (hey - great idea!!). But seriously, agile is EASY from a process perspective. There are videos out there that describe Scrum in 120 seconds or less! However, agile requires that governance and team members and the business and vendors:

- THINK differently

- ACT differently

- VALUE differently

- COLLABORATE differently

- GOVERN differently

- CARE differently

- MEASURE differently

Getting the picture???? Agile is a culture change and like any other culture change BEFORE the organization deploys an agile project strategy they MUST assess their organizational readiness and ask, "Are we even agile capable?"

If you review the State of Agile Survey (Version One) results for the past 12 years (the 13th should be published this month), ten out of eleven reasons respondents cite for challenges with agile are all organizational change-related.

Those of you that know me are keenly aware that this is my #1 spiel I shout from the mountaintops! It doesn't matter if you are moving to agile, implementing service management, deploying a new methodology, etc., IF process practitioners do not readily adopt and perform within the desired state, the organization will just keep throwing good money after bad.

I've been uber fortunate in that some organizations I've worked with realize this and gather key leadership in a room where I provide an agile overview and then together we perform a force field analysis so everyone understands what needs to change in the organization to reap the forecasted benefits that agile promises. And, I ask those leaders a tough question; that being, "Are you REALLY willing to change that (whatever "that" is)." It's eye opening.

Organizational readiness encompasses measurements, leadership/governance, org design, formal and informal communication mechanisms, accountability structures, reward/recognition practices, employee involvement, education and training (YES - these two are vastly different), resourcing strategies, and policies/processes/procedures. YIKES!!!! Yep - I'm going on the record to say it's much more than ADKAR for all of you Prosci fans. I believe in their framework; I just believe they cut some corners. And, "readiness" has to be assessed at the individual, "team" (definition of "team" differs depending upon the situation), and organizational levels.

NOTE: FUZION will be offering a webinar on how to facilitate that force field analysis within the next month or two so watch this space! I warned you that I'm passionate about this point!!!

3. They aren't getting tried and true assistance.

This point brings a heavy sigh to my lips as well. Sitting in a class for two days and taking a super easy test earns one the CSM designation, but has nothing to do with experience. Luckily, I see organizations catching onto that fact. Job ads use to require the CSM designation for Scrum Master positions; lately, I've been seeing "CSM with 5 yrs' experience" or better yet, PMI-ACP vs. the CSM.

Again, organizations who report the most success with agile recruit assistance - whether as a consultant or a new FTE. Organizations are better positioned to be successful if they reach out and let experience guide them.

Commercial break: FUZION can help you with this!!

Seriously, if your organization wants to increase their odds of realizing amazing benefits from an agile project approach:

1. REALLY "do" agile. Pilot the "out of the box" approach. Recruit team members and a PO who will play with you. Agile is all about experimentation. So - experiment away - BUT... OUT OF THE BOX. Then modify what needs to be modified based upon organizational constraints or nuances. And please remember - (all caps coming) - AGILE IS NOT A SILVER BULLET!!! It does NOT "work" for all projects.

2. Ready the organizational soil so that you're "agile capable!"

3. Get tried and true help. Ensure the consultant or FTE can meet your organization where it's at and will be a cultural fit. They will need to be a "disruptor" of sorts; just not a "know-it-all" or "alienator."

Thanks for listening! I'd love to hear your thoughts in response to this blog. Use the "Contact Us" button or email us at


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