Agile Transformation: Reasons for failure

Agility and flexibility to meet business needs in a quicker manner is becoming more and more relevant in today’s technology world. Business needs, priority, and requirements change with the fast-paced market, and technology needs to be locked in at the same pace. Big organizations are now adopting agility in their software development cycle to help business derive stronger revenues from the market in real time. 

Agile Transformation is a journey that organizations take and face lots of obstacles. It is important to know these obstacles in advance and to implement appropriate mitigation plans at an enterprise level to ensure Agile Transformation success.  

Some of the biggest challenges that organizations face are listed below. 

Enterprise-wide commitment to transform into Agile organization 

Transforming an organization to be agile is a radical change and might take some time. Teams in this process go through a metamorphosis and need to adapt to techniques and processes that work for the team and the organization. This needs to be in alignment with the vision set by the executives, as well as agile principles. Sometimes teams develop a version of waterfall-agile strategy that helps them deliver faster without understanding and applying Agile principles correctly. That is a definite recipe for disaster. Teams should take smaller steps, reflect on what’s working, and never lose sight or motivation to meet the end goal. 

Executive support and training  

In the Agile world, even though teams are self-organized and empowered to execute their sprint plans, the product roadmap and business value is determined by executives and stakeholders. When stakeholders do not have enough knowledge of Agile principles, they can make it difficult for teams to continue working as Agile teams. This leads to a lot of frustration on both sides, and, as a result, Agile is usually blamed for being a dysfunctional environment. Executives need to be involved in the process to be able to provide directions to the teams. You want your executives to be part of the process. 

Cultural change 

Sometimes organization culture clashes with Agile values, and teams need to unlearn older, traditional ways of doing business. Most developers insist on clear, written business requirements and functional specifications, though they may not be comfortable working closely with the business. On the other hand, the business may not be  familiar with technology and the software building process. 

For tighter collaboration, teams need to work harder to change their attitudes and perspectives and see the value in closer teamwork.  

Four founding pillars to successfully implement Agile Transformation are: 

  • Respect – to not consider resources as just warm bodies but skillful, high-quality teams fulfilling business needs with agility. 
  • Trust – Agile requires teams to be self-organized and be less controlled by management or business executives. This trust needs to be built on by changing cultural values. 
  • Humility – There is no command center in an Agile team, and both technology and business teams need to come together to form one team and be able to understand each other’s world and needs.   
  • Building good working relationships – Executives should support this. 

Tracking Agile maturity 

Retrospective and reflection are the biggest parts of Agile framework. Tracking the processes and Agile principles’ applications along the way can help teams improve their Agile practices. It helps the team build a culture where they are continuously self-reflecting and looking at ways to better the process.  

Retrospectives should focus on what is going well for the team, what is not going well, and what are the areas that they need to improve upon. Teams can continue what is going well, discard what is not going well, and come up with ideas for needed changes. Adding metrics to factors like team healthsprint healthtechnology health, etc. are good indicators for where the team needs help and guidance. Without these metrics and retrospectives, teams tend to lose focus around the idea of Agile transformation and tend to cut corners to settle for whatever seems to be working for them. This lands them in a gray area that is not specifically agile nor their traditional way of software development, making their productivity less than when they started. So, tracking and retrospectives are key factors to ensure that the team continues to progress along the path that they set out on. 

Many organizations tend to give up during this time, as issues crop up during the transformation that demotivates the team. 

Clear team roles and framework 

Teams should clearly define roles and responsibilities for all key players. In Scrum, Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Development teams have their own places and should not replace or overshadow each other.  

Product Owners need to have enough domain knowledge to guide teams, be able to work with stakeholders, and make critical priority decisions on behalf of the business. Scrum Masters should not just be relegated to facilitating scrum ceremonies but should be the mentor for the team, as well as the problem solvers. Product Owners or Scrum Masters should not micromanage every activity of the project and instead trust development teams to carry out their roles as a self-organizing team. 

Other documents like a Team Working Agreement, Definition of Ready, and Definition of Done go a long way to stating clear directions to the team. Confusion and chaos within scrum teams will kill the entire idea of agility, and hence these clearly laid out plans are the key to a successful transformation.