The Challenges of Implementing Agile in Business Environments

The Challenges of Implementing Agile in Business Environments

The Challenges of Implementing Agile in Business Environments

It is worth pondering the reasons behind the failure of some organizations in adopting agile methodologies successfully. Consider the following observations.

Organizational Commitment to Cultural Change

Primarily, the lack of unequivocal support from management for the cultural transformation demanded by agile practices often hinders the progress of teams. Agile methodologies are inherently reliant on embracing uncertainty and fostering innovation. Without steadfast commitment from senior leadership, there is a propensity for teams to regress to their conventional methods of operation.

Adequacy of Training and Coaching

Furthermore, the intricacy of agile processes necessitates extensive training and professional coaching. In the absence of these educational supports, teams are likely to encounter difficulties in adaptation, leading to a potential failure in the implementation of these methodologies.

The Imperative of Communication and Collaboration

Effective communication and collaboration are pivotal to the success of agile teams. Deficiencies in these areas can result in misunderstandings, project delays, and errors, which are detrimental to the agile process.

Appropriate Utilization of Tools

Moreover, while tools and systems designed to facilitate agile practices can be beneficial, an overreliance on them may be counterproductive. Agile methodologies emphasize human interactions over technological solutions. Hence, teams should prioritize fostering robust interpersonal relationships and honing their communication abilities.

Flexibility and Adaptability

Finally, it is crucial for teams to exhibit flexibility. The essence of agile is its adaptive nature, which allows for continuous improvement and responsiveness to change. A rigid adherence to predefined processes can impede a team's ability to adjust and evolve as required.

Conclusion

In summary, the successful incorporation of agile methodologies is contingent upon complete organizational buy-in, sufficient training, clear and continuous communication, judicious use of facilitative tools, and the maintenance of adaptability within teams. Adhering to these principles will substantially increase the likelihood of realizing the benefits of agile practices.

Waterfall is not always bad

Waterfall is not always bad

Waterfall is not always bad

#agilecoachingtip Waterfall is not always bad! Some projects are inherently phased-based. One recent example was a vendor selection project that I was asked to assess. It was being mismanaged using Scrum. I could list a hundred different examples like that. Can you still be "agile?" Yes!
- You can still meet everyday
- You can still have a backlog
- You can still have a Product Owner (and you should)
- You can still have a servant leader
- You can still have rolling wave planning
- and more...
Don't assume that a project can't be both waterfall and agile.

How Agile are you? Free Agile Maturity Assessment

How Agile are you? Free Agile Maturity Assessment

How Agile are you? Free Agile Maturity Assessment

NEW! Become a Certified Agile Professional

When you receive the score of your self-assessment, you can identify your level of Agility on the Agile maturity matrix. Contact us if you are looking for ways to improve your overall Agile Maturity.

  • 0 - 80 points: Ad-hoc Agile
  • 81-160 points: Doing Agile
  • 161-240 points: Being Agile
  • 241 - 320 points: Thinking Agile
  • > 320 points: Culturally Agile

Print a PDF of the maturity model and mark your score.

What is an Agile Maturity Model?

  • A model that is designed to enhance and improve Agile practices by assessing the current state of your organization
  • A way to determine how closely you adhere to Agile principles
  • A model which shows your organization on an Agile maturity  continuum  from an initial or ad-hoc level to a continuously improving, self-sustaining level

How did we measure your Agility?

We based the assessment primarily on the use of Scrum since it is the most widely adopted Agile method. The scoring of the assessment is weighted based upon the overall importance of the answer and by applying our experience to the MoSCoW prioritization model as defined by the DSDM consortium, e.g. giving a higher value to those questions that are Agile "must haves" versus Agile "could haves."  No maturity model is perfect, but ours should provide insight into where you are today, reinforce where you have come from, and give you an idea where you are going.

The above maturity matrix is based upon the Maturity Index for Cultural Agility developed by Vodaphone UK and Hewlett Packard as presented in this paper to the UK's National Audit office.  The online Agile self-assessment was adapted from an original source developed by Henrik Kniberg and is licensed under a Creative Commons: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/

What next?

What you do with this information is up to you. This tool only presents one individual's point of view (you). If you want to have a number of people participate in this assessment and would like us to aggregate, summarize and make recommendations to help you on your Agile journey, please contact us.

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Waterfall is not always bad

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Do you know where you are going with your Agile implementation?

Do you know where you are going with your Agile implementation?

What every executive needs to know!

Over the past decade, I've been involved in more than 20 Agile projects. Whether as a team member, Product Owner, Scrum Master, or Coach, I've had the opportunity to play a role in many successful projects. These days, however, I’m being brought in (more and more often) to prevent Agile failures. It isn't so much that the projects themselves are failing, but that organizational impediments are preventing success. Why? Version One’s most recent annual State of Agile Survey found that an “inability to change organizational culture” and “general resistance to change” are the most common reasons Agile projects fail.
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I believe the bulk of these failures can be traced back to the initial implementation phases. For instance, were these organizations truly aware of what they were getting into? And did they realize the types of change that Agile requires? In my Scrum Master trainings, I emphasize the need for organizations to truly understand and embrace the change they are about to embark upon. We discuss what type of organizational change is needed for a successful Agile implementation. The three types of organizational change we look at include:
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Developmental

  • Improvements on processes, methods, or performance standards
  • Done in order to stay competitive
  • Causes little stress to employees

Transitional

  • More intrusive because it introduces something completely new
  • Typically a planned change such as a reorganization, merger, acquisition, or implementation of a new technology
  • May cause instability and insecurity

Transformational

  • This leads to an organization that is very different to the organization that existed prior to the change
  • Since the change is radical, the organization and its employees need to drastically change their views, strategies, and assumptions
  • Such change can alter an organization’s culture, ethos, and systems

Most assume that Agile is a developmental change. They see it as a process improvement and treat it as such. I would argue, however, that Agile implementation is actually closer to transformational change. Since most companies don't anticipate this transformation, care isn't taken to manage the impact of the change and the outcome is often failure. Those organizations that do see Agile as transformational are better prepared for the work needed to achieve long-term success.
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What does it take to have a successful Agile implementation?
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At the highest level, organizations need to outline their Agile goals and define expectations:
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1. Is speed to market the main issue? Does the company need to deliver products more frequently?
2. Is the organization inefficient? Does it need to be “leaner” and more efficient with existing resources?
3. Is quality the issue? Does the company need to improve customer satisfaction with the software it delivers?
4. Is the organization new, or is it one that’s trying to reinvent itself and have a more empowered culture?

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It’s critical to answer these questions before embarking on an Agile implementation.
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With these answers, the choices become simple. If, for instance, your organization can answer YES to all four questions above, and if you're willing to do what it takes to implement the Agile approach verbatim, then you should consider implementing Scrum and XP (Extreme Programming). These are transformational approaches which focus on team empowerment and cross functional roles. They therefore require re-organization and a dramatic shift in management and leadership style.
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I recommend using many XP practices when implementing Scrum. At an Agile New England meeting I attended a few months ago, Ken Schwaber, co-author of the Scrum Guide, stated that the merger of Scrum and XP into a single approach was originally intended. The reason for this is that Scrum doesn't dictate any specific engineering practices. XP addresses key development practices such as pair-programming and continuous integration. Its focus is on high-quality code. Technical Debt is minimized when you follow strict engineering practices. Many of the other Agile approaches make major assumptions about engineering practices already being in place. This is one of the major flaws of many current Agile implementations. If you don’t have a solid set of engineering practices and tools in place beforehand, your implementation will only have a short window of success.
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On the other hand, if you answered NO to question number four, you should consider a more prescriptive Agile implementation. Approaches like Kanban, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), and Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) are more conservative and provide a clearer set of requirements and processes that need to be in place for the organization to be successful. I suggest that Kanban can be presented as a developmental change whereas I still consider SAFe and DAD to be transitional changes because they often require a reorganization to align with the approaches. Though I'm thoroughly familiar with Kanban, I only have passing knowledge of enterprise frameworks such as DAD and SAFe. At the enterprise level, my experience is with organizations that create their own Agile/Hybrid methodology, adopting Scrum terms but keeping many of their existing roles and processes in place. This generally creates confusion for the team members who get “certified” in Scrum but aren't actually allowed to implement Scrum as it was intended.
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Here’s a matrix to help you choose your approach:

Goal

Scrum/XP

Kanban

SAFe/DAD

Improve project success
Be more efficient with resources
Increase IT quality
Have a more empowered culture

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If you've read my other blog posts, you know that I’m totally onboard when it comes to adopting a full Agile implementation of Scrum and XP—even though it’s EXTREMELY difficult. The key thing to realize when implementing Agile’s most popular approaches (Scrum, XP, DAD, SAFe, etc.) is that you must embrace the entire approach. If you don’t, you’ll quickly become susceptible to confusion and implementation “fatigue” from team members and stakeholders. The implementation will become a struggle and it will probably fail. In Scott Ambler’s 2013 IT project survey, he finds that 64% of Agile projects are successful while only 49% of traditionally run projects manage to achieve the feat. To me, this isn't an overwhelming improvement given the amount of effort required to implement Agile. It’s hard to decipher whether or not these Agile implementations were well-executed. We only really know that organizations which call themselves Agile are still struggling with 36% of their projects.
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Summary:
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If you're not willing to embrace cultural change, DON’T DO SCRUM OR XP. Go with Kanban, SAFe, DAD, or an internally developed hybrid instead.

If you don't have engineering best practices and support tools, such as automated regression testing and continuous integration, then YOU'RE NOT READY FOR AGILE. Step back and institute these processes first before building a new project management approach on top of a flawed foundation.

Interested in learning more about my approach to selecting a project management approach? Check out my online training Implementing Kanban for Project Management in my Agile Training store: http://buyagile.com/Kanban1
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References:

About the author, Dan Tousignant, PMP, PMI-ACP, PSM I, CSP

Dan is a lifelong project manager and trainer with extensive experience in managing software development projects. Based upon his experience, he has adopted both Agile as the primary method for developing and implementing software. He is passionate about the leadership emerging from self-organizing teams.

Dan has over 20 years of experience providing world class project management for strategic projects, direct P& L experience managing up to 50 million dollar software development project budgets, experience managing multi-million dollar outsourced software development efforts and strong, demonstrated, results-driven leadership skills including ability to communicate a clear vision, build strong teams, and drive necessary change within organizations.

Dan holds a Bachelor of Science majoring in Industrial Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is a Certified Project Management Professional, Professional Scrum Master, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner and Certified Scrum Professional and is the owner of Cape Project Management, Inc.

Dan Tousignant, President
Cape Project Management, Inc.
Contact: Dan@CapeProjectManagement.com
Are you implementing Scrum but realize you are better suited for Kanban?

Are you implementing Scrum but realize you are better suited for Kanban?

I have found that very few organizations are starting out with Kanban as their first choice for their Agile implementation. Almost every organization that I have been exposed to through training and coaching began their Agile implementation with Scrum. Unfortunately, many companies have significant organizational impediments to being a true Scrum shop.

Before I go any further, I want to say that I am a Scrum believer. If there is a way to implement “pure” Scrum, I believe you will have the most productive and happy development teams. That being said, I have found that many organizations trying to implement Scrum have significant "Scrum-buts"and their implementations would be better served by stepping back and considering a simple Kanban approach.

There are many different approaches to Kanban for software development, and some are even proprietary. Since everyone else is attempting to trademark their own Agile approach, from this day forward, I am trademarking, “Simple Kanban™.” Just kidding… Anyway, the benefit of Simple Kanban is that it assumes you already understand Scrum and User Stories and can apply what you have learned in Scrum to Kanban. When I train on Kanban, I train one day of Scrum and User Stories and one day of how to apply those practices to a Kanban approach.

I can’t say that I am an expert in Kanban for software development, but early in my career, I did have some great exposure to Kanban in manufacturing. In college, I majored in Industrial Engineering, and my first “real” job was working as a sales engineer for an environmental controls manufacturer. They used the Kanban pull system for inventory control and as part of my onboarding training  I spent three weeks on the shop floor. It was an experience that left a deep impression on me.

While I worked there, they won the Shingo Prize for world-class manufacturing and excellence in productivity and process improvement; quality enhancement; and customer satisfaction. This award is considered one of the “Triple Crown” industrial excellence awards, along with the Baldrige National Quality Award and the Deming Prize.

Kanban was originally a lean manufacturing approach, and it was developed in alignment with these 5 lean principles:
  • Specify what creates value from the customer's perspective
  • Identify all the steps along the process chain
  • Make those processes flow
  • Make only what is pulled by the customer
  • Strive for perfection by continually removing wastes
These lean principles which I saw applied to manufacturing always stayed with me as my career shifted to software development project management. I was never a thought-leader advancing my ideas beyond the needs of my immediate project, but I was able to be “agile” before I even heard the term. I was applying both lean principles and common sense to keep the development teams productive and my customers happy.
Now that I am an Agile Coach, I have formalized my common sense approach so the process is repeatable and so I can train Agile teams. Here is how I implement Simple Kanban:

Keep existing functional teams: Most organizations are struggling with eliminating roles, especially QA. One major reason that this won’t change is because separation of duties is required for many IT shops.

  • Business Analysts perform role of Product Owner and write User Stories. They prioritize these Stories in the Product Backlog for the development team which becomes the work queue for the team to pull from. Ultimately, given the lightweight nature of User Stories, there will be fewer Analysts needed.
  • Software engineers perform high-level design, and identify the development tasks. For complex systems, it may require that an architect or senior software engineer is on the team for this activity.
  • Software engineers continue to develop, write unit tests, and advance Agile engineering practices such as continuous integration. This is the same role they have been playing, but in a “pull” environment they will be much more empowered.
  • Lastly, retain quality assurance team members to perform functional testing. I still suggest that the Business Analyst and/or a true Product Owner role exist to perform ongoing acceptance testing.

Utilize User Stories: Kanban typically uses cycle time to size requirements. It may be heretical for me to propose this, but User Stories can accomplish the same thing, especially if the team members have already been trained on User Stories.

Manage WIP using functional velocity: Each functional team estimates the story points for their work on a story. As with Scrum, over time, each team will know their velocity and can commit to their work in progress (WIP) limits. They can then work towards a stable time-based velocity which can provide the same transparency as cycle time.

Team Size is managed by Story Points: The number of business analysts, software engineers and quality assurance team members is determined by the number of story points in the functional queue and ultimately the release schedule. As with Scrum, multiple small Kanban teams work better than one big one.

Self-Organizing is the same as a Kanban pull system: When a team member is done with a story, they go get more work from the queue.

Keep open spaces: This is just a good idea. Regardless of your Agile approach, one of the keys to success is having everyone in the same room.
It may sound complicated, but as with Scrum, after a few cycles the team begins to work out the kinks. I agree that over time, cycle time is a better approach for Kanban, but if you are moving from a Scrum model, it may be an easier transition to retain the use of Story Points, and I have seen teams be successful with this approach long-term.

Bottom line – keep it simple

Do you want to learn more about our approach to Kanban? We have 2 options:

About the author, Dan Tousignant, PMP, PMI-ACP, PSM I, CSP
Dan is a lifelong project manager and trainer with extensive experience in managing software development projects. Based upon his experience, he has adopted both Agile as the primary method for developing and implementing software. He is passionate about the leadership emerging from self-organizing teams.
Dan has over 20 years of experience providing world class project management for strategic projects, direct P& L experience managing up to 50 million dollar software development project budgets, experience managing multi-million dollar outsourced software development efforts and strong, demonstrated, results-driven leadership skills including ability to communicate a clear vision, build strong teams, and drive necessary change within organizations.
Dan holds a Bachelor of Science majoring in Industrial Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is a Certified Project Management Professional, Professional Scrum Master, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner and Certified Scrum Professional and is the owner of Cape Project Management, Inc.
Cape Project Management, Inc.

Does your organization need an Agile Coach?

Does your organization need an Agile Coach?

As we love to say when answering many questions pertaining to Agile, “It depends.” Not the answer you want to hear, but let me elaborate. Extreme Programming (XP) introduced the term coach into the Agile community. The role was intended to both be a mentor on XP practices and a hands-on developer when needed. Scrum created the role of the Scrum Master with similar expectations but without the emphasis of being a hands-on developer.
The term, Agile coach, has become ubiquitous; however, it hasn't been used as XP intended. Quite often, the term refers to an external consultant and very seldom will you see it applied to an internal position.
I have played the role of Agile coach on and off over the last decade, and I didn’t always use the term coach. I was a coach when I was a program manager of a large Agile initiative; I was a coach when I was a functional development manager; and I was an Agile coach consultant hired to serve multiple Scrum teams. What was common for each of those roles was that I was the most experienced person in the room on Agile practices and I had a passion for passing on that knowledge to the teams I was working with.
In the first two instances, though I wasn’t formally named a coach, it was clear based upon my experience and willingness to share, that people felt comfortable approaching me for advice and discussion. Recently as an Agile Coach consultant, the same dynamic was true, but my role was more formal.

Do I need to be called an Agile coach to be an Agile coach?

Anybody with a passion for learning and sharing Agile best practices can be a coach. Becoming a coach is like becoming a leader. As with leaders, coaches can emerge from within a team.

What skills do I need to be an Agile coach?

  • Active listening
  • The ability to influence without authority
  • Experience – with both success and failure
  • Patience
  • The right attitude!

If they don’t work for me, how can I tell them what to do?

Here is a real situation I faced while coaching a Scrum Master. I had just sat through a very painful Sprint Retrospective:

Coach: “How did you feel that Retrospective went?”
Scrum Master: “It went fine, but the team is bored with them so I try to get them over with as quickly as possible.”
Coach: “Are you open to working with me to prepare something more fun and engaging for the next Sprint Retrospective?”
Scrum Master: “Definitely!”

In this situation, I didn't  immediately tell her what I would do differently, I gave her an opportunity to choose whether she wanted help or not.

How can I be an Agile coach for people that work for me?

I find this situation to be the easiest in many ways. My management style is very much in line with a typical coaching style. I work with the individual on their career goals and set a specific Agile maturity path based upon their experience and role. Some of these goals are around Agile best practices and engineering principles, and most often, it is about soft skills like listening, being self-organizing, and peer influencing.

So, back to the original question, does my organization need an Agile coach?

Every organization that is in the beginning or in the midst of implementing Agile needs someone who can be an Agile Coach. The question really should be, “Who should be playing the role of Agile Coach?”
If the Scrum Master is experienced and has the soft skills necessary, then the Scrum Master is often the coach. If there is a development manager or practice lead with the necessary background and desire, then they can be the coach. A team member can emerge as the coach if he or she has the passion and emerges from within the team.
If none of these internal candidates exist, you may need to look outside the organization—at least on a temporary basis—to fill this role. The ultimate goal is for everyone on the team to have a high level knowledge of Agile principles and practices, so that they can self-organize and continue to improve; resolve impediments; be productive; and truly enjoy their jobs. Then . . . there will no longer be the need for one individual to be a coach.

About the author, Dan Tousignant
Dan is a lifelong project manager and trainer with extensive experience in managing software development projects. Based upon this experience, he has adopted both Agile as the primary method for developing and implementing software. He is passionate about the leadership emerging from self-organizing teams.
Dan has over 20 years of experience providing world class project management for strategic projects, direct P&L experience managing up to 50 million dollar software development project budgets, experience managing multi-million dollar outsourced software development efforts and strong, demonstrated, results-driven leadership skills including ability to communicate a clear vision, build strong teams, and drive necessary change within organizations.
Dan holds a Bachelor of Science majoring in Industrial Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is a Certified Project Management Professional, Professional Scrum Master, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner and Certified Scrum Professional and is the president of Cape Project Management, Inc.

email: dan@capeprojectmanagement.com

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