Four Misconceptions about Agile That Lead to Failure
The barrier to organizational change is always lack of support from upper management. When an organization is changing to agile, it’s crucial that a complete culture makeover takes place. In this instance, upper management support is even more critical when moving away from waterfall’s command-and-control system. Many agile transformations fall short because these expectations do not align with the reality of agile. Jan Stafford has identified four common misconceptions that often lead to these failures.
1. Improving software development with agile will take only a few months.
Remember that the transformation from waterfall to agile can be a major cultural change for an organization. It’s shortsighted to think that in a short time frame teams can change the way they approach problems effectively. Teams need to believe in their own decision-making processes, and upper management must trust them to make those decisions. Upper management has to understand how much of a change the new culture will be and must actively work with the teams to reinforce their support for the new culture.
2. Adopting agile only requires bringing new tools to the development organization.
Every organizational change is usually associated with gaining new tools. While this might work for time tracking or expense reimbursements, agile requires a complete cultural change. In fact, this change can be implemented using a simple stack of sticky notes and a pen. Relying too much on tools is a recipe for disaster. Removing a command-and-control mindset is about people—not tools.
3. Agile development's primary goal is gaining speed in order to churn out applications quickly.
Management may view agile’s short iterations and numerous releases as a way to simply create applications more quickly. The fact is, however, that agile is about quality—not speed. Iterative development allows the team to make on-the-fly changes to the product and address issues affecting the team as they arise. The result is a better product and a better team. This particular problem was captured beautifully by the following animated short on YouTube:
4. Only the development group has to change in agile adoption.
A typical agile team includes QA, a ScrumMaster, and a product owner, but remember that all the other areas of a business are also impacted by a change to agile. For example, the sales team has to change the way team members talk to customers about delivery dates. No longer is a fixed set of requirements being delivered on a fixed date. Now, the customer will be a critical part of the development process.
Changing an organization to agile is not an easy process. Like it does on any project, change works best when it is implemented through continuous improvement. Demonstrating the benefits of agile to management—with emphasis on reality and not misconceptions—will only increase management’s involvement and support. Ultimately, this is what will drive the culture change necessary for a true transformation.