[Fr]Agile Failures: Socializing Your Team to Agile Methodology

Sep 19, 2019

Why do Agile projects fail? There have been several recent surveys on the topic, and the results can be enlightening. Across these surveys, two common themes emerge:

  1. Organizational culture not aligned with Agile principles
  2. Lack of middle-management support for the Agile initiative

When looking closer at these two reasons (often listed in the top five), you could replace “Agile” with “Something New.” Organizational culture and lack of support are not unique to Agile. These are common issues for change management required to execute on most strategies. It is much easier to identify that this issue exists than it is to effectuate the change needed to do something about it. In many instances, the rush to use Agile (or “Something New”) has overlooked the time it takes to socialize an organization to the changes that are coming. Changing an organization’s culture can take anywhere from several months to several years. Start by making sure there is a clear rationale for why the change is important to the success of each individual, then the group, then the organization as a whole. Agile (or “Something New”) is first about “how you think,” and then about “what you do.” Failure to address potential hostility to Agile outside the Agile team implies that management has not laid the foundation for success. This leads into the second reason Agile projects can fail.

In a poorly planned and communicated transformation to Agile (or “Something New”), it is typical for there to be great enthusiasm at the executive level. However, this often leads to functional managers in the middle of change they did not want. Without strong executive guidance, this management layer can feel isolated and then simply dig in to survive. This is not a problem with Agile per se, it is a problem that stems from poor leadership. During large transformations that can, and often will, clash with old (and often bad) habits. Leaders need to model the behavior they want their management team to display and communicate how they fit into the changing organization.

The prevalent theme in all these surveys on Agile is that failures can be traced back to cultural problems in the organization. As with any organizational change, strong executive leadership, solid training, and capable coaching are imperative. The Agile methodology works best with:

  • Trust within the team
  • The right tools and methods for restructuring the process
  • ScrumMasters and Product Owners who are willing to work together towards the solution

To learn more about how ASR Analytics can help your team transition to an Agile approach, email us at info@asranalytics.com.