Why Agility fails

Top 4 reasons why agility tends to fail. Avoiding these among other reasons will reduce eminently the successful fail.

7 min
Why Agility fails

There are many causes organizations can successfully fail agility, avoiding the main ones helps you avoid just that.

Agility is the key to innovation and rapid adaptability - it acts as a catalyst in innovation processes. By using agile methods in innovation management, changes can be anticipated at a very early stage and successful products can be brought to market faster and with high quality.

Agile became a mainstream software development approach in early 2000 and at that time the scope of agile was only for single teams. Agile was invented in the software industry but nowadays businesses in all industry sectors make use of it.

Agile is a way of thinking with a focus on collaboration, frequent delivery of value, and the ability to deal with functionality changes. It consists of values, principles, methods (e.g. Scrum), and practices.

Whereas, Agility is the ability of a business as a whole to respond quickly to changes, especially external changes. For example, by adapting business processes or changing customer experiences.

There are many ways to achieve agility, including digital technologies, innovative product design, process agility, and culture-shifting.

Agility in business has taken the agile concepts and principles and has elevated them to be applied across the entire enterprise.

Traditional teams usually face different difficulties such as centralized decisions, document-based hand-offs, and weak customer links. The main gain that agile brought was a higher team performance. Also, through the Product Owner (PO) role, teams became more connected with the business and started to have a higher awareness of business value.

On one of the principles of the Agile Manifesto, it is said that “changed requirements should be welcomed, even if they occur in late development. Thus, because “agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantages”.

Based on its first principle it is stated that the highest priority of Agile is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

The principles in this Manifesto are very general and they are about giving you the ability to make a good decision in a particular situation and less about telling you what to do in the meaning of specific tasks execution.

Through agile development, a different approach is used at observing and solving problems when trying to turn an idea into reality using the software.

Agile development is spending less time in the development phase, instead, breaking up what we are trying to make into the smallest and simplest versions of what we are trying to build and put it out there and get feedback and see what works and what doesn’t work and involve the business more in your building journey.

In general, Companies are increasingly orienting themselves towards the principle of organizational agility. The focus is no longer only on production and software, but also on the transformation of company divisions or even entire companies in the direction of agility.

Based on the 14th annual report of State of Agile, it is stated that accelerating software delivery and enhancing the ability to manage changing priorities remain the top reasons for adopting Agile.

Additional reasons for Agile adoption see below;

Main reasons for Agile adoption

After all these and other unmentioned pros for adapting and being Agile, still we witness how companies and products fail in being Agile and using agility for their end product.

Let’s dive in and find out the main reasons why this occurs.

Why Agility fails

Based on Gartner’s insights regarding Agility, eighty-seven percent of organizations are already using some form of Agile methodology. Thus, we see that agility is widespread in use among enterprises. Despite this fact, only a few companies are able to see and understand truly the whole potential and benefits it can offer.

It is no surprise that many project managers are leaving behind the old traditional ways of managing projects and embracing the Agile route. However, using an Agile methodology is no guarantee for success.

If you have adopted an Agile approach for your project and it is still beset by problems, it is because of our misconception of easy, successful, and secure traversing from traditional waterfall to Agile working methodology.

We should remember that except for switching the methodology, a significant shift in culture across the organization is required for a more successful transition.

Top 4 reasons why agility fails

Here are our top 4 reasons that drives agility towards fail;

1. Insufficient experience with Agile Methods

As in every profession, lack of experience can cause many difficulties and obstacles to overcome. 

When we speak about Agile and agility we should know that it is a unique and different way of thinking, starting from the perception of the problem occurring, possibilities of intervention for solving those issues, and till the release of the product. 

Being so, having deficient experience with agile methods can cause the secure failure of agile projects. 

Teams that are not able to apply basic agile practices tend to run into trouble. The solution, investing in solid foundational training in agile methodology and techniques, and providing competent coaching is money well invested.

According to the latest 14th annual report of State of Agile, the vast majority of respondents (84%) declared that their organizations were below a high level of competency with Agile practice.

2. Lack of management support

The decision for Agile transformation should be taken from strong leaders who are aware of challenges they might face on the way.

Practically, not everyone is meant to be a leader, therefore companies should choose someone who is a strong and energetic leader, someone who doesn’t lose focus despite obstacles he has to deal with.

In general, Agile transformation gets a lot of support and there is enthusiasm from team members and their executives.

The support from the executive level or known as C-SUITE commonly refers to four executive-level managers within a company. C-SUITE executives include the Chief Executive officer (CEO), chief financial officer (CFO), Chief Operating Officer (COO), and Chief Information Officer (CIO).   

Usually, it is the middle management, for example, Product Line Managers, Business Unit Headers, Resource Managers, Program Managers, Portfolio Managers, etc., that are responsible for executing practical shifting from traditional methodology to Agile and be in charge of doing this successfully.

middle management responsible for successfully agile shifting

Whereas Delivery Teams typically are composed of those professionals involved directly in the planning, design, and development of the project.

3. Lack of Guidance from Product Owner

The owner of the product needs to have a proper product vision, domain expertise, and technical knowledge.

He/she has the responsibility of engaging with the development team, end-users and guiding them towards a desirable business solution.

If the product owner takes a back seat and offers poor or no guidance, the risk of project failure automatically increases.

4. Lack of cultural awareness to agility 

In most cases whenever a change is brought into an organization one of the major obstacles is the people’s resistance and ignoring the cultural implications of agile. 

Because that management sometimes forces teams to use agility without any preparation and backup it can turn into failing to shift to agile.

However, changing the culture is often one of the hardest things to do, because organizations spend years building one, in other words, it means changing the core traditional mentality of functioning.

Hence, prior preparation for teams must be delivered explaining in depth the reasons why they need this transition. 

Thus, having a new approach and mindset overall will help for achieving an easier transition into agile and this way productivity will increase resulting in more successes.

Another key factor in agility failure is proven to be the limited knowledge of the agile coach role. They don’t actually understand how and to what extent agile coaches can help the company. 

This way, by avoiding the importance of agile coaches, the application leaders incorrectly believe they can run the agile transformation all alone, from which transformation the results won’t be pleasant as hoped for.

It’s no secret Agile projects can fail even though it has a compelling argument which is: faster delivery of products, rapid turnaround on changes, minimal documentation.

There are other reasons for Agile failure as well. We should know that Agile is hard to follow any “best practices” as other traditional methodologies do.

Hence, based on individual characteristics and specifications of enterprises or organizations the reasons for failure may vary.

Adservio with its team of professionals continuously assist companies towards achieving successful growth through agility implementation in all their working domains.

Published on
July 26, 2021

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