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How Not to Go Agile

Just about every company wants to go Agile, but for large companies what it takes to go Agile may stop Agile in its tracks.

To some people being Agile means they can deliver products and services more rapidly. Smaller product increments delivered using lean processes with low overhead are attractive and make customers happy. To others Agile means accelerated revenue, money saved or a better competitive edge. Some smaller organizations are lucky to experience all of these benefits rather quickly, but recent studies show large companies continue to struggle with Agile implementation and some say being Agile falls short of expectations. Here’s one example.Chaos2

A large company’s IT department uses a Waterfall process to deliver cross-functional projects quite successfully for many years. When they decided to go Agile, someone in the IT organization took the Waterfall process and added Agile activities to it. This became their new Agile project management process with more than 180 activities and deliverables. Then a PM came on board and tried to use it to deliver a project with a team of people from IT and engineering. The project was placed on hold not too long after it started, and $2m was spent on the project with nothing to show for it.

What happened?

  1. Someone in the company created a process, called it Agile and tried to fit a cross-functional organization into it. The new process confused people and most became irritated and disengaged.
  2. No Product Owner role, no Project Sponsor role, no product backlog or project charter. The design and development teams didn’t know what to build so they made assumptions that didn’t work.
  3. The new process was actually a disconnected Waterfall/Agile hybrid process. Scope changes made by the Sprint Team caused delays and rework for those on the Waterfall side of the process. No clear hand-offs meant long delays.
  4. Agile transition is an iterative progression and little thought went into this. The process was not tested and no one understood how to integrate it with other business processes.
  5. Making a significant change like this one also means managing how the change impacts the business culture and the way people work together. Little thought went into preparing the people.

By following a well thought out iterative progression path and by taking into account the impacts to the organization as a whole, large companies can make the transition to Agile.



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