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Since the Agile Manifesto was created in 2001, it has transformed how we work on projects and helped accelerate development, delivery, and product success. Yet 23 years later, we’re hearing from Agile pundits and critics that Agile isn’t as effective as it once was or even that “Agile is dead.” Some companies are dismissive and say: “We already went Agile.”

Agile cynics have said for years that Agile is dead, yet some estimates say 71 percent of U.S. companies now use Agile (with our disclaimer that Agile isn’t used but adopted into the company culture). Agile projects have a 64 percent success rate, whereas waterfall projects only have a 49 percent success rate.

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with Agile as it is. Agile still works, but it needs to be implemented right and tailored to fit the needs of each team and organization.

What Are the Benefits of Agile?

The benefits of Agile are numerous.

  • First, teams and organizations who adopt Agile usually see improved quality of their products and services.
  • Customers are more satisfied since they engage throughout the product development lifecycle.
  • Agile teams are, well, more agile and can adapt to changes in the marketplace without much disruption.
  • Agile teams have more predictability in planning, forecasting, and delivery.
  • Risk is reduced since teams can spot obstacles quickly during sprints.
  • Waste is reduced, and Agile teams are more productive.
  • Teams are continuously improving through accelerated learning cycles.
  • Organizations that adopt Agile also have increased cross-team and cross-level organizational alignment.

It’s not uncommon to see fifty to a hundred percent improvement in team productivity in a matter of weeks and even as high as 600 percent in a few months. I ended up needing to hire fewer people and got more work done.” Director of PMO, Prudential Financial, from the Hyperdrive Prudential case study.

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What Are the Problems With Agile?

So, with all these benefits, what’s the problem? Agile has matured over the past couple of decades and, unfortunately, has not been adopted appropriately in some instances, or is misinterpreted. Some teams are quick to say they are Agile without fully understanding what Agile is, how to adopt it, and how to measure its success. Companies that don’t see expected Agile outcomes typically fall into the trap of the seven common problems with Agile. Learn what they are and how to solve them!

Problem With Agile #1: Misunderstanding Agile

Going Agile requires a comprehensive transformation that affects every part of an organization, including people, processes, strategy, structure, and technology. Yet, in their haste to reap the benefits of Agile, organizations may attempt an Agile adoption with the misunderstanding that it’s a set of processes or tools rather than a shift in mindset and culture. Teams may cherry-pick certain Agile practices like stand-ups and neglect the holistic perspective that underpins the methodology. This can result in a fragmented implementation where the true essence of Agile – collaboration, adaptability, and customer focus – is lost.

Solution: Comprehensive Agile training and education are essential for Agile adoption. Business leaders should use leadership styles, behaviors, and practices aligned with the Agile culture the organization looks to instill. On the team level, teams should gain an in-depth understanding of Agile principles to ensure they are applied cohesively throughout the product development process. Also, prioritize embracing an Agile mindset over mere adherence to rituals and ceremonies. Agile is a cultural shift that emphasizes continuous improvement and fast feedback cycles.

Problem With Agile #2: Unrealistic Expectations

When Agile fails, it doesn’t mean that Agile is dead. It’s often because upper management has unrealistic expectations of the ease of an Agile transformation. Agile is not a plug-and-play package that involves rituals and practices. Being Agile requires a sustained commitment to changing behaviors, structures, and mindsets throughout the entire organization. For most companies, achieving higher levels of Agile maturity takes about three years.

Solution: Agile Coaches can help organizations understand the time and commitment it takes to go Agile. They use change readiness assessment, change mapping, and culture assessment. An Agile Coach can reveal the organization’s current state, goals, mission, and strategy and then outline the changes required to meet those goals.

Problem With Agile #3: Resistance to Change

Introducing Agile to a team, and especially an entire organization, isn’t as easy as clicking your heels together and saying, “We are an Agile team.” Going Agile is a significant cultural shift that can lead to organizational resistance. Teams and leaders alike must embrace different ways to work and even think.

Solution: Effective Organizational Change Management (OCM) is crucial to adopting and adhering to Agile. Leadership should communicate the benefits of Agile, provide training, and nurture a culture that values continuous improvement.

Problem With Agile #4: Overemphasis on Ceremonies

Often, when people claim that Agile is Dead, it’s because a team may adopt Agile ceremonies without accurately transforming into an Agile culture. Sprint planning, daily stand-ups, sprint reviews, and sprint retrospectives can establish visibility, transparency, and collaboration. But if they aren’t aligned with Agile values and principles, they can devolve into practices without meaning.

Solution: Teams should remember that ceremonies are a means to an end, not the end themselves. Focusing on Agile’s collaborative and adaptive aspects, rather than just going through the motions, ensures that the methodology remains effective and impactful.

Problem With Agile #5: Scaling Challenges

While Agile works seamlessly for small, cross-functional teams, scaling it to larger organizations can be a formidable task. As companies grow, the complexity of projects and organizational structures can dilute the effectiveness of Agile practices.

Solution: Addressing scaling challenges requires a strategic approach. Organizations should consider frameworks that guide extending Agile principles to larger teams-of-teams. Training is a great place to start, and Agile consulting offers a tailored approach that aligns with the organization’s unique structure, which is key to overcoming scaling issues.

Problem With Agile #6: Lack of Customer Involvement

Agile prioritizes customer collaboration throughout the development process, which ensures the final product suits their needs. Yet we’ve seen some companies and teams leave out this practice, especially as Agile has spread to teams other than product development. This lack of involvement can lead to misaligned expectations and a final product that doesn’t fully meet customer needs.

Solution: Customer feedback is one of the primary tenets of Agile success. It’s essential to involve customers throughout the product development lifecycle. Regular feedback loops, customer demos, and open communication channels bridge the gap between development teams and end-users, ensuring that the final product aligns closely with customer expectations.

Problem With Agile #7: Inability to Measure Agile’s Success

Team leads and company leaders might struggle to measure the success of Agile since traditional metrics for linear project management (such as adherence to budgets and initial project timelines) don’t capture agility. Agile encourages qualitative measures of success, such as customer satisfaction, product quality, and team morale, rather than quantitative metrics like hours worked. The success of Agile is dependent on effective collaboration, communication, and teamwork within the product team and stakeholders. Assessing these aspects may require qualitative measurements. Since Agile focuses on continuous improvement, a team’s success depends on its ability to learn and improve over time, rather than simply achieving predefined goals.

Solution: Join today’s (FREE!) Lunch & Learn where Damon Poole, Agile Coach for the Fortune 100, will teach you how to measure the value of agile adoption, including increased employee fulfillment and profitability. You’ll come away with a survey of assessment methods, including the “Agile Journey Map,” a technique for co-creating a path to agility. Or, avoid the learning curve associated with a DIY approach and call in the professionals. Get superior assessments, metrics, and performance analytics with Hyperdrive’s consulting services.

Agile Isn’t Dead. It’s Misunderstood.

So, is Agile dead? NO! Agile works when leadership commits to becoming Agile and develops a proper framework for Agile organizational change. Organizations often need guidance to implement Agile and continually review and adjust as they progress on their Agile journey. Organizations thrive and realize the benefits of Agile by understanding and following Agile principles, strategically tackling scaling issues, managing resistance to change, ensuring customer involvement, and measuring and optimizing results. However, the sad truth is that when organizations don’t commit to doing it right or go halfway in, we hear that “Agile is dead.”

To begin or reinvigorate your Agile transformation journey, learn how the expert Agile guidance from Hyperdrive’s consultants can elevate your company’s competitive edge.

Questions? We Can Help.

When you’re ready to move beyond piecemeal resources and take your Agile skills or transformation efforts to the next level, get personalized support from the world’s leaders in agility.