Why Are Organizations Still Struggling With Agile?

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The Agile Manifesto was written 18 years ago, yet organizations are still struggling to successfully adopt the Agile methodology. The 12th Annual State of Agile Survey found that only 12% of respondent organizations reported that they have a high level of competency in using Agile.

Additionally, 78% of these organizations report they are still experimenting with Agile or that teams are still maturing. Even for an approach that appears widely leveraged by the software industry, these numbers expose several challenges in its implementation.

What Obstacles Are Keeping Organizations From Successfully Adopting Agile?

The Agile Methodology isn’t to blame for these surprising statistics. While many companies struggle to implement the framework, other companies and teams have found great success. Instead we should take a second look at environments surrounding the methodology and the existing barriers that are stalling adoption.

What are some of these barriers that separates the profitable and the profitless?

1 I Behavioral Change

One of the biggest challenges in Agile adoption is convincing people to change their behavior. When we are used to doing things a certain way, it's hard to introduce a new mindset.

In a traditional organizational structure teams are categorized by specific functions, there is a hierarchy of delegation, and individuals are responsible for their portion of the product. Agile takes a sharp turn from the traditional approach encouraging cross-functional, autonomous teams that wholly own the product outcomes.

A drastic change like this one can be hard to accept, especially if there is no urgent reason to change.

Related Article: How Design Thinking Can Improve Your DevOps Practice

2 | Organizational Change

A similar challenge is the large structural shifts that can occur from implementing Agile methodology. A core principle of Agile is the use of cross-functional teams. These teams are designed to improve adaptability and speed but can cause a huge upheaval in an organization's structure. This issue is more prominent in larger organizations with formalized departments than in startups where people are used to taking on multiple roles.

3 | Pick-and-Choose Implementation

A third obstacle is self-imposed by managers who pick and choose favorable concepts of the Agile Manifesto to implement across their teams. Yes, the Agile Scrum framework is meant to act as guidelines that can be adjusted to fit the needs of individual organizations and teams. However, there are core principles that must be followed if you want to experience the intended benefits of speed, innovation, and adaptability.

Think of the Agile framework like a recipe for favorite dish. Recipes can be followed exactly or adjusted for taste, but there are core ingredients that are required to make your dish. For example, if you take the chicken out of chicken parmesan, you just have spaghetti. If you take out garlic then you end up with a less garlicky version of chicken parmesan. See the difference?

Before being selective about the parts of the Agile Manifesto you choose, it's important to understand the core fundamentals and how they impact the outcomes of Agile Scrum framework. Understand where your non-negotiables are and where there is room to move.

4 | Wrong People in the Wrong Roles

The Agile Scrum framework defines a few key roles that are critical for success. The first is the Product Manager, who represents the product's stakeholders and the voice of the customer. He or she is the visionary for the software capabilities.

Another key role is the Scrum Master. He or she is responsible for the development and ongoing optimization of team processes.

It’s not enough to just fill these roles and check the box. Organizations need to find the right people with the skills and capability to perform the functions of the Scrum Master and the Product Owner.

For example, if you have a manager that takes a hands-off approach from development, then they wouldn’t make an ideal Product Owner, who needs to be highly involved in the development process.

Not sure what makes someone ideal for an Agile management role?

Check out “Who’s Playing? A Brief Guide To The Roles of Agile Scrum”

Agile Development can be life changing for organizations when adopted the right way. But Agile is not an instant solution. It takes time and dedication to understand how the framework’s core principles fit into your organization’s unique environment. Take some time to understand the Agile framework before jumping in or hire experts to help ensure a smooth transition from traditional software development to agile development.


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