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The Problem of Poor Agile Adoption

written by: Rupen Sharma, PMP • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 8/7/2014

Whether you like it or not, Agile practices are here to stay. There have been many –and I mean many—documented successes. However, there is a litany of failures too. What are the barriers in place for teams to fully embrace and run with Agile? Let’s explore some of them.

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    Poor Agile Adoption First things first, let’s get some of the common misconceptions out of the way.

    • SCRUM equals Agile: SCRUM is one approach to Agile. There are several others, such as Extreme Programming.
    • Agile is only for software: Agile practices can be implemented in various teams, such as technical publications, data warehousing and business intelligence.
    • Agile is a solution for world peace: Just by going Agile, you aren’t any closer to project success. Agile excels Waterfall in some situations, but not all!

    To learn the basics of Agile, refer to Agile Development Life Cycle.

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    Provide a Foundation for Agile Success

    Before you start thinking, “This Agile thingy sounds good on paper, but it sure doesn’t work in the real world," ask yourself if you have provided enough support for Agile to succeed. The basic foundation needs to be set by:

    • Leadership: Agile requires commitment and sometimes a cultural change within an organization. Without support from Senior Leadership, your team may succeed, but will probably not!
    • Training: Ramp-up the team on Agile practices and the specific Agile methodology that you’re following.
    • Customer Expectations: Setting stakeholder expectations with the customer and business users. If the customer is accustomed to Waterfall, you might want to get into the “Why Agile is more suitable" conversation.

    After you have laid the foundation for success, focus on some of the other areas that can lead to poor Agile adoption. I’ve mentioned a few here.

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    Commit Before Planning

    You have marching orders on completing a project in 9 months and you very well know that it requires at least 12 months. This is a big no-no in Agile. You can’t commit before planning because it leads to poor Agile adoption. In Agile, planning is influenced by several factors, such as the degree of changing and evolving requirements. Also, in Agile practices, planning is a team effort. Actually, there is a rather interesting approach to planning called Planning Poker, which you might want to implement.

    For more on Agile planning considerations, refer to the SCRUM Agile Development Project Planning Considerations - Length of an Agile Iteration article.

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    Project Scope is Not Etched in Stone

    Project objectives are typically etched in stone. Agile trumps Waterfall when requirements are vague and/or the requirements are evolving. Therefore, assuming you are using Agile to provide “agility" in development, the scope could vary. After all, not always is the solution and hence the scope known. An understanding of the iron triangle shows that cost and time can also be variables in projects that aren’t Fixed-Time, Fixed-Price (FTFP).

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    Team Related Issues

    Agile requires you and your team to have an Agile mindset and an attitude that fosters Agile values. If you have a team with some resistance to adopting Agile, engage in a discussion. Some reasons for resistance could be related to the high-level of communication and openness required from team members in Agile environment. Whatever the reasons, they need to be addressed because without team buy-in, the project is on course for failure.