5 reasons why your Agile transition is struggling. (and can get derailed!)

Agile adoption and more specifically the transition from Waterfall to Agile frameworks is bumpy and often tedious. Across the industry, more and more teams are facing challenges and are unable to produce the desired results and value. There is a sharp increase in the number of pseudo Agile projects and Agile projects that are struggling to keep up, let alone be on the improvement path.

The Agile framework is simple, but ‘being’ Agile is difficult. This is evident from the article in Computer Economics, ‘Agile Development Use Increases, but Barriers Remain’. It shows that adoption has increased from 49% in the last year to 55%. It is noteworthy that the organizations that did adopt Agile, do not really practice it fully.

The reality is that Agile adoption and transformation still has a steep climb ahead, in order to get to a state of a wider and stronger acceptance in the IT Industry.

Time for a little introspection So, how is it going for you? How is your group doing with Agile transition? What are some of the barriers to adoption? What can slow down or derail your Waterfall to Agile transition?

It is all about perspective …

I have seen teams struggle with transitioning to Agile due to a plethora of reasons. Both internal and external factors contribute to these challenges. I put some thought on why teams struggle with adoption of the Agile way of getting things done, and came up with 5 broad categories. It is by no means an exhaustive research, just some observations from my hands-on Agile transformation projects in several Federal and Commercial organizations in the Washington DC Metro. YMMV, and would love to hear your perspective, so please comment!

Here are 5 reasons why your Agile transition could be struggling….

  1. Going Agile for the wrong reasons – Understanding the drivers, needs and the true reasons to transition to Agile is paramount. If you are going Agile just for meeting contractual restrictions or because you don’t want your project to be the only Non – Agile team, you probably are not going to succeed. In today’s organizations it is common to see the C- suite and Upper management exerting pressure and setting the vision to “become agile”…..making its way to your performance goals and annual review! Lean operations, efficiency, reduction of waste and improvement of quality are some of the right reasons…
  2. Unrealistic expectations – For those just starting the journey, it may appear that going Agile can solve all problems and can make immediate impact and improve value generation instantly. The reality is that it does not. Agile is NOT a silver bullet, but it does solve many issues when done right. Create a roadmap that is sensible and allows for norming, forming and learning curves. Being pragmatic, and patient will help your team. Being Agile is far more important than doing Agile
  3. Inadequate knowledge and capabilities – Being set up for success is critical, in any new endeavor. This is no different. Beware of the pitfalls ahead  when embarking upon the Agile route. If your team members lack training and / or real Agile experience, they will have difficulty applying basic agile practices and will eventually run into trouble. Evaluate the team’s knowledge and invest in training.
  4. Not undoing old habits – If you are going to do it, do it right! There is no such thing as Quasi Agile. Really! I have seen many transformations suffer due to inadequate adoption of the right processes. When teams are forced to deal with overlapping process models, they get confused. Recycling old processes without Agile thinking and just using Agile buzzwords is a recipe for disaster. Concealed Waterfall makes you Fragile, not Agile.
  5. Underestimating Organizational impact – Going the Agile route will impact organizational values and cultural changes, and the success of Agile adoption heavily hinges on organizational realignment. Some common symptoms include lack of Management Support, inadequate communication channels, lack of vision, insufficient empowerment of employees, traditional hierarchy system that results in long decision making cycles and the overall political atmosphere. Culture eats Strategy for breakfast. An integral part of any Agile transformation is taking the first steps to facilitate a cultural shift and bringing some openness to the ways how work gets done in your organization.

Got ideas? Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on what works and what does not…. What can help teams achieve higher success with Agile adoption and transformation?