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Agile Adoption Challenges and Best Practices

Various data sources indicate that the top most common challenges to successful Agile in organizations are mostly related to all or one of the following.

Company philosophy at odds with core Agile values. Company culture continues to dominate as the top cause of failed organizational Agile implementations. The failure to overcome cultural resistance and build an Agile-ready organization is the number one barrier to successful enterprise Agile adoption. Cultural change is critical to ongoing successful corporate Agile adoption because in most cases, Agile must co-exist with traditional development approaches. Successful Agile implementations need support from the team members, management, and executives to embrace new ways of completing work and collaborating. Roles in the organization will be affected in some way.

Org Culture at Odds

Recommendation: Start small. Experiment with pilots and prototypes. Ensure key stakeholders have a common understanding of Agile concepts and benefits. Set up a robust feedback mechanism to involve stakeholders early on in the process. Show and communicate progress and success. Envision Agile benefits, desired outcomes, a foundational roadmap and how to measure success. Plan a concise, contextualized strategy for Agile transformation. Others throughout The organization will realize when something great is happening and will jump on the bandwagon to adopt a methodology that is showing promise.

Inadequate experience with Agile approaches. For most new Agile teams, members are typically inexperienced in applying basic Agile practices and unfamiliar with successful agile transformations. An Agile process will expose problems and issues with the project more quickly than a more traditional development process; addressing such and what to do about those problems and issues is also not always very clear to new and inexperienced Agile teams. Challenges can surface in prioritization, breaking up requirements into testable and independent increments, understanding and communicating problems that need to be addressed on a retrospective, etc. that add up and make the difference for the team’s success or failure with Agile.

Inadequate Experience with Agile

Recommendation: Understand that inexperienced teams need more formal process and guidance. Focus on collaborating to design an intuitive product or process rather than extensive training. Include an experienced Agile resource to coach on the team that has strong experience practicing Agile methods, and experience being successful with Agile. Optimize work with distributed teams using easily accessible, intuitive communication and collaboration tools. If possible, keep team members stable on a project until the project is completed. This will help teams mature and develop a cadence and well-defined velocities that provide better predictability to product owners and stakeholders. Invest in making training and continued coaching guidance available for the teams to consult. Encourage a learning organization by launching a community of practice.

Lack of management support. Typically this relates to ‘middle management’ lack of trust for a new process, lack of understanding of changing roles and a lack of engagement or buy-in to the new process. In most enterprise wide agile implementation efforts, it is common for teams and executive to have great enthusiasm for the effort. However, in the absence of a strong Agile transformation plan, project and program managers or, functional “resource” managers often feel isolated mainly because their roles are no longer clear. This results in a general resistance and creates additional barriers to further Agile adoption and success.

Lack of management support

Recommendation: Executive leaders should model the behavior they want their management team to display. Lead by being an example and live the values they want them to adopt, and help middle managers understand how they fit into the changing organization.

External pressure to follow Legacy systems and processes. This is especially common in large enterprises, where some teams follow Agile approaches and other parts of the organization operates within traditional waterfall approaches, sometimes working under the umbrella of the same portfolio or program. In such cases, the Agile teams are usually being grafted into the existing traditional portfolio and project management methodology, and with teams that are working against different schedules, trying to deliver on a specific project.

External pressure to follow Legacy systems and processes

Recommendation: Aim to get business units aligned through training to ensure that managers of different areas are not siloed and understand the implications of interacting with teams that do work in the new way. The ultimate goal should be to break dependencies across the entire organization. Adopt an Agile funding model where investment is made in small increments in a way that allows for prototyping, learning early and course correction so that cross-functional teams can learn to work using an Agile approach. Change your metrics. Identify new metrics that move away from measuring and tracking lines of codes, quality issues and reports as success factors and deliverables Focus on “working product” and value delivery; they should be the greatest measure of success in an Agile environment. And to achieve this, facilitate continuous collaboration between the business and the development team.

Data Sources

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