Top 3 Mistakes in Agile Implementation

It’s been almost fourteen years since Agile Manifesto was devised in February 2001 (reference Agile_software_development¹ ) and it’s been more than 20 years since XP/Scrum (leading agile software development methods – Scrum Software Development)² were introduced. However, even after 20 years, more than 100 books have been written on the subject, numerous training courses, consulting organisations have sprung, I still see organisations 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.

In this blog I will 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

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 be agile. This invariably results in optimising local concerns against bringing in any valuable, meaningful business improvement. Going back to 14 principle by Deming 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 target would be to “Do Agile”.

2. Agile = XP or Scrum or Kanban or ScrumBan or Any other process

Agile = XP or Scrum or Kanban

Most fundamental mistake that I have seen repeated in almost all medium and large organisations is this. They consider Agile Transformation is just another process change. 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 organisations even develop their own hybrid processes, which are nothing but an extension of the old processes like waterfall 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. As mentioned by none other than quality guru Edward Deming in his 14 points for Transformation of Management – Management by Objective or by numbers are 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. They end up gaming numbers rather than improving processes, and consequently even people below them end up playing the same game.

These are top 3 mistakes done in agile implementation. However unsurprising there are more. To get a full list of agile mistakes please register here.

One thought on “Top 3 Mistakes in Agile Implementation

  1. Vlad Bernstein says:

    I feel that the second point you make is the most common Agile mistake ever made. All too often, I come across teams and people who associate “doing Agile” with adopting Scrum or Kanban as a visual board, and nothing else at all. More needs to be done for any company to be Agile!
    Was just looking here: – there are some other very, very common reasons why so many of these eager Agile adopters fail miserably. Good to learn these before jumping in!

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