The Agile mindset is becoming one of the most sought-after skills for both business and IT. Agile is not flavour of the month, it is the new norm and companies who do not embrace it will need to play catch-up, for a long time on an uneven playing field.
During my 35-year career in IT I’ve worked in a number of Agile and ‘Wagile’ project styles, which ultimately failed after months or years of heavy investment, leaving teams demotivated, and leaders with depleted investment pots. I believe there are three key factors which contributed to this:
1. Micro management
Senior management struggles to delegate responsibility to the development teams. They keep creating detailed documentation and asking teams to remain accountable to the initial project plans, which hampers the appetite for innovation and experimentation. Teams are rarely given the space or the incentive to grow, readjust, fail, learn.
What businesses fail to appreciate is the intricacy involved in reshaping their way of thinking, acting and operating at an enterprise level. Transforming a company from the bottom up requires consistency, devotion and a complete mindset shift.
The project I was on followed a lengthy up-front ‘planning’ phase, where the project scope and the business case were defined, budgets were assigned and lots of documents were produced and maintained. Then we jumped right into the development phase, while the funding structure was not revisited to reflect the iterative and incremental elements of Agile. This highlights how easy it is for projects to fall back into the waterfall trap, by simply omitting to link the budget releases to Agile releases.
3. Training and skills
It wasn’t Agile that failed, but the lack of knowledge and the limited willingness to adopt the new ways of working by all teams involved, including the business users. The departments involved were moving at different speeds, while very few of the people involved were thinking Agile, but not were not influential enough to push for agility across the organisation. 44 percent of the respondents to a worldwide Agile survey put the lack of Agile skills and experience as the number one reason why such projects fail.
This brings out the importance of training and coaching your people - not just the developers, but the managers and leaders as well. Communicating Agile principles is not enough, managers and leaders need to lead by example and instil a culture of experimentation, failing fast and trying again. It is about being Agile in everything you do.
At Capco, we help reshape the way the brain approaches problems, allowing business stakeholders to become more comfortable with uncertainty while keeping the customer at the centre of it. You can read the 'Five Agile Myths Debunked' blog and also download a copy of our Agile Brochure through the links on the right.
If you want to learn more about Agile, please feel free to reach out to Robert Ord.
- Agile: the mindset shift to delivering outcomes fast, using various approaches (e.g. Scrum, Kanban etc.) by promoting trust, self-autonomy and product/feature focus in teams
- Wagile: the place many organisations find themselves when moving to an agile mindset, but still operating within boundaries of a ‘waterfall’ approach
- Waterfall: the traditional approach to project delivery which takes a sequential pattern, looking at requirements, design, build, test and implementation etc.