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Top 3 Mistakes in Agile Implementation

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Top 3 Mistakes in Agile Implementation

A review of key mistakes when adopting agile in a new organization, and a look at management-by-numbers vs. management-by-objectives.

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It’s been almost fourteen years since Agile Manifesto was devised in February 2001 and it’s been more than 20 years since XP/Scrum were introduced. However, even after 20 years, more than 100 books have been written on the subject, numerous training courses, and consulting organisations have sprung, I still see organizations outright struggling with agile (agile implementation or just simply being agile).

Only 39% of Agile teams are successful.

The 2015 Chaos Report from the Standish Group shows only 39% of Agile teams are successful. That means 61% of them are not meeting the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto. Or just implementing various processes (making them even sacred) and falling into same traps as before. I list down following basic mistakes done by any organisation trying to implement Agile methodologies like Scrum/XP.

Fundamental Mistakes In Any Agile Implementation

1. Agile is only for development teams. Lean is for workers and not for the managers or management

Agile is only for teams and not for managers.

The most common misconception or mistake is to hire a consultant to make your developers agile and workforce lean (aka manpower reduction). That is to differentiate between management (which is separate from workforce and sits in ivory tower), and workforce (which is brainless and can only function as per the direction of the senior management).

This in effect means the same thing as Management by Objectives.

In this case objective is to do agile.

This invariably results in optimising local concerns against bringing in any valuable, meaningful business improvements. Quality guru Edward Deming says in his 14 points for Transformation of Management, "Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force by asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force."

In case of agile transformation the slogan or objective would be to “Do Agile.”

2. Agile = XP or Scrum or Kanban or ScrumBan or Any Other Process

Agile = XP or Scrum or Kanban

Second most fundamental mistake that I have seen repeated in almost all medium and large organizations is this. They consider agile transformation is just another process change. So, meetings become standups, team leaders become scrum masters and project managers become product owners.

Most of them focus on implementing the process without understanding the basic principles behind those processes. This results in moving from one process (waterfall) to another process (XP/Scrum) without making any real gains. Some organizations even develop their own hybrid processes, which are nothing but an extension of the old processes like combination of waterfall and agile or what we call dinosaur models.

3. Agile Means Improvement In Velocity, Zero Defects, On-time Delivery and Other Such Numbers:

Agile = More Velocity or Zero Defects or Burndowns

In short, Agile equals to Management by Numbers or Management by Objectives. Management by Objective or by numbers are in fact counterproductive to the entire concept of lean and agile.

Deming sees Management by Objectives or Numbers as “an attempt to manage without knowledge of what to do or how to do it.” The managers focus on outcomes; without looking into the processes that produce them. In most cases they end up gaming numbers rather than improving processes, and consequently even people below them end up playing the same game.

These are the top 3 mistakes done in any agile implementation. However unsurprisingly, there are many more such mistakes. You can download the full list here.

[Latest Guide] Ship faster because you know more, not because you are rushing. Get actionable insights from 7 million commits and 85,000+ software engineers, to increase your team's velocity. Brought to you in partnership with GitPrime.

agile adoption ,scrum ,agile coaching

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