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Why Agile Transformations Fail

Why Most of the Agile Transformations Fail?

Introduction 

Agile is an iterative methodology and helps in software development and Project Management including non-IT industries by facilitating them to add value to products and offering customer-oriented products. Agile Methodology is the process in which teams can construct software incrementally and iteratively, also known as Sprints. The importance of Agile transformation includes – helps in the enhancement of product quality, helps team members to focus on users and business values. Agile Methodology has every Stakeholder involved and there is augmented transparency between teams and team members. 

The process of Agile transformation, however, is not as easy. Most of all, organizations get started on Agile transformation but stop midway – in 97% of cases the process stops or fails. Let us know why.

Here is why Most of the Agile Transformations Fail?

These are the top ten reasons why Agile transformations fail. 

1. Your organization talks ‘Agile’ but does not believe in it

Blame it on the organization’s culture. On the face of it all, such organizations appear to be tech-savvy, smart, and all for technology but the truth is that they are still stuck in the control-culture. So, what eventually happens is that instead of transforming the organizational values and working on transitioning the culture, they expect the ‘Agile to fit in’ – they could not be far from being wrong.

Solution – be ready to give up the control culture even if you are keen to retain the hierarchical system. Even with the conventional system, you can empower your team to take charge, be creative and innovate.

2. Treating Agile to be the objective rather than the journey 

Many organizations start their move towards Agile thinking that it is the end-goal. This is not the right approach and this is why Agile fails in large enterprises and small ones too. 

Solution – while the concept of Agility was introduced primarily for the software development field, today, its applicability has been felt across different industrial verticals other than IT/Software. Organizations that succeed in Agile transformation understand that principles of frameworks like Scrum, Lean, and Kanban are the means to build better processes and products that are tuned as per the requirement of the user and deliver the products faster to the market. This way they can make better and effective ROI. Agile provides for a continuous journey rather than being the destination. Great products and higher customer satisfaction is the goal and Agile is a means to achieve it.

3. Agile transformations take time and organizations need patience

Most organizations decide to go Agile and start with the process but lose faith and patience in between. As a result, they give up and term it as a ‘failure’. The concept of giving up too easily is more relevant today because as customers we are used to immediate and instant results. Blame the online world for this! In the lack of trained manpower and Agile leaders, most organizations readily give up their goal of Agile transformation within months of undertaking the process.

Solution – Agile takes time. Organizations need to understand this concept plain and clear. If the top management of your organization is myopic, things can start to go hay way before soon. Executives start to feel the pressure of producing results very soon and thus give up on Agile transformation midway. The need to have learned and trained top managers is the key here. There needs to be holistic training of employees and executives to educate everyone about the time and for the effects to start showing.

4. The leadership of organizations is to be blamed for Agile transformation fail

The support from the top leadership often becomes a point of contention for everyone involved. This is usually caused when the Agile initiative comes from the bottom lines. What usually happens is that the principle excites the leadership initially but when they are unable to feel much happening – because Agile takes time – they start to create issues so much so that the people who started the process of Agility are called up to take other roles and involve in other projects. 

Solution – Agile is a success when it follows the top-down approach. It is critical that the top leadership initiates the topic of Agile transformation and undergo all necessary training to empower themselves about the approach.

5.   Agile transformation fails when the focus is on technology and not customers

If the Agile team is completely and exhaustively focused on the productivity and technology and not on the customer or the values that it can deliver to the customer, the chances of the project failing are high. 

Solution – one of the primary focuses of Agile methodologies is to focus on the customer or the end-user and iterate as per their changing needs. Frameworks like Scrum are so successful because they are completely customer-oriented. 

6. Resistance to change

Many times the top leadership is all set to go Agile but they fail to convince the people down the line to embrace Agility; or vice versa. This is a typical case of a lack of trust in the Agile Methodology. This lack comes in because of many reasons – team members think that they will lose authority by sharing knowledge; or, employee turnover is high; or, most team members are contractual and hence not motivated enough to change. 

Solution – Agile is good for organizations where the team members are stable and regardless of the turnover rates whether it’s low or high. The presence of loyal employees who have stuck with the organization for a long time can be asked to act as team anchors. Also, top leaders to ensure that there is an environment of mutual trust in the team.

7.   Why Agile fails in large enterprises is because the approach is not tailored to meet organizational vision and needs.

Many big enterprises make it mandatory for their teams to follow prescribed approaches rather than define and design custom-made approaches that take into account the strengths and weaknesses of the organization. When the attitude is to forcibly fit your team or business into readymade formats, there can only be trouble.

Solution – Agile transformations are successful only when there is a holistic approach to making the system sustainable. To do so, you need to focus on tailoring the approach based on the organizational culture, the vision of the organization, and the business needs.

8. Agile transformations fail when organizations are busy duplicating what others are doing rather than innovating ways and methods.

An employee from an Agile organization leaves; joins another organization and starts preaching the goodness of Agile. He then becomes the coach and the mentor and in doing so, often tends to replicate what he has learned in his previous organization. Since there is no experimentation or innovation, Agile flats flat. 

Solution – never stop experimenting and innovating. The Agile process is a discovery journey and organizations need to ensure that small experiments are done to keep improving the process.

9. Often, it is the external Stakeholders who do not support the Agile transformation process

Often, customers do not assist – they are reluctant to change or get involved in the process. They are happy as they are or as things are. Many times, the process of Agile adoption is limited to only employees and development teams; but not customers.

Solution – You need to convince the idea of Agility to your customers. Remember without the involvement of the customers or the end-users, the struggle is going to be long-drawn. 

10. Measurement of progress does not happen

The ability to measure progress is one of the plus points of Agile enterprises. However, not many organizations do it and, in the process, fail. They have no idea of collecting data and analyzing it for improvement.

Solution – make measurement a necessary part of your Agile process. Before the process of adopting Agility for the organization, you need to collect data related to and relevant to the objectives. 

Conclusion

There are various ways of dealing with failures during an Agile transformation. Some of the methods include – the right methodology that needs to be chosen, should be modified to fit the company culture, use different problem-solving techniques, educate the Management team and align with the Agile Manifesto, and let the team members add their experiences in the Agile projects. 

References 

https://www.scrum.org/resources/blog/why-Agile-transformations-sometimes-fail
https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/Agile-problems-challenges-failures-5869
https://enterprise-knowledge.com/why-Agile-fails-when-organizations-try-to-go-Agile/

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