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The Top Two Reasons Agile Fails

Tim Zack Chief Marketing Officer
Reading: The Top Two Reasons Agile Fails

Everybody’s on board, so why isn’t Agile working as it should? Understand the top two reasons Agile fails and what you can do about it with our CEO, Mike Cottmeyer.

Video Transcript

The challenge with dependencies is that dependencies reduce Agility. Period. Dependencies are going to reduce Agility, so you have two choices. You either manage dependencies, or you break dependencies. Okay? In the presence of dependencies, most Agile methods will not work effectively. So, what we have to do in the presence of dependencies is have compensating controls.

Because we’re purists, and those methodologies don’t articulate the compensating controls, then what happens is, we start installing Agile in the presence of dependencies, and we wonder why nothing works. And the reason is, is that Agile methods assume dependencies don’t exist.

Now you can say, well, but SAFe has all these methodologies and things for managing dependencies within the value stream. Well, what about when there’s dependencies across value streams? What about when you’re dealing with a systems and platform layer that supports 10 products across your product line, right? In all of them, we’re funneling work down into that shared services layer. How do you manage those dependencies? Right? I don’t think anybody’s got a really viable answer. So, you either manage dependencies or you break them, right? That’s your only choice.

Resistance is another thing, right? Resistance has to come into play. Most everybody at this point has a CIO that they’re working for that says, “Yep, we’re all on board. Let’s go do Agile.” But do they really understand what it’s going to take to do Agile? Do they understand the organizational design and governance and technology challenges that they’re going to face?

What about the middle managers that are under a mandate to say that they have to do Agile, but yet they’re scared to death that their job’s going to change and they might not be employed at the end of it? 

So, we have to figure out how to create safety for people. They’ll say that they support it, because they have to, and then they’ll do everything up underneath that to undermine it. Maybe not even intentionally. Right. It’s not because they’re bad people. It’s because they’re scared. Right. We have to create safety for them.

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Comments (2)

  1. Rick Vance

    I can’t understand why there isn’t more talk about how to remove dependencies as part of an agile transformation. In my mind this is the #1 most effective thing we can do to speed delivery and improve first time quality. To me it’s a non-starter. If organizations aren’t willing to make the necessary changes to minimize dependencies between teams then most of the benefit of an agile transformation is being “left on the table”. I appreciate how Mike is very explicit about it.

  2. Himanshu Mistry

    I agree that Dependencies and Resistance to change are two failure point for any agile initiative. In my experience, the biggest challenges that I have see is recognizing the dependencies and poor dependency management. In adopting Agile Practices, yes we have the explicit knowledge of the methodologies and frameworks. But when companies say they want to start leveraging Agile practices, their maturity in understanding what it takes to become agile. People within the company seem to take short cuts by hiring individuals with Agile / Scrum experience and think that they are running an agile project. But in reality this will fail because the rest of the team and leadership are not educated in agile practices. What changes that they will need to make and roles will need to change.

    Resistance to change with the use of modern frameworks is a deal break as well. Because you will never get the focus of what you are trying achieve and team members will be less motivated. Mindsets have to changes in order to adopt agile practices. And everyone in the company needs to think differently, make necessary changes with in the organizations, get trained and work with external partner to get going.


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