As organizations realize the need to embrace disruption, adopt emerging technologies, and respond quickly to the ever-evolving competitive environment, they are always looking for ways to increase agility. Whether it’s about launching a marketing campaign or introducing a feature to wow customers or implement a new technology to improve maintenance and performance of products, teams need to improve their time to market continuously. Agile practices help teams accelerate their work for continuous delivery, reduce the risk and impact of errors (fail fast, fail small), and align with client’s expectations better.

While so much has been written, discussed, and propagated by thought leaders about how to implement Agile practices, the fact remains that organizations often fail to make the most of Agile. In fact, according to Jeff Sutherland, the co-creator of Scrum, 47% of all Agile transformations fail. In this article, we will discuss the top 5/7 reasons for Agile transformation failures and understand how to avoid the common pitfalls.

Believing that Agile is the New Waterfall

Many teams and project managers used to traditional ways of working believe that Agile is just the new stripped-down Waterfall. Despite the fact that Agile has been around for nearly two decades, many haven’t invested time to really understand it. Some others claim that Agile is as bad as Waterfall. It is important to understand the key differences between Agile and Waterfall practices, and where these are most useful. Agile is most useful in complex situations where there are many unknowns and there’s a higher probability of failure. Agile provides a mechanism to negate these failures with smaller iterations while keeping the client in a close loop. Continuous client feedback is essential to the success of an Agile project. In situations, where the end product or solution is clear to the client, implementing Agile might not be ideal. For Agile transformation to be successful, organizations need to get a good understanding of what Agile is and what it is not.

Bottom-up, Fragmented Implementation

It is a fact that Agile implementation has benefited software development teams, but its implementation outside the function has been very limited. According to the 2020, State of the Agile Report, only 7% of marketing teams, 6% of HR teams, and 5% of sales teams have implemented Agile. Moreover, these bottom-up agile transformations, vary in their depth and flavor. As a result, there are significant overheads involved in managing various processes and tools used by different teams and there’s no clear visibility into the overall value they deliver. The fragmented implementation of Agile is common because CXOs don’t realize the true potential and value of enterprise-wide Agile transformation. According to McKinsey’s research, “leadership and how leadership shapes culture” are the biggest barriers as well as the biggest enablers of successful agile transformations. Seeing Agile transformation as a strategic enabler could help CXOs take the first steps in the right direction.

Lack of Upskilling and Investments in Talent

Today, global tech-giants have high-performing Agile teams with cross-functional skills. These teams are empowered to make critical decisions . However, many organizations undermine the need to relook their talent strategy during their Agile transformation. Their existing workforce is not ready to adopt Agile practices or has an unclear understanding of their roles and growth path in the organization. In many cases, organizations experience sharp attrition due to their process and team overhauls. It is important that organizations revise their talent strategy to align it with their Agile efforts. They need to determine the intrinsic skills, performance measurement criteria, growth path, and managerial structures in the organization to devise upskilling programs and provide specific direction to new hiring.

Not Investing Enough Time

While Agile is about increasing speed, Agile transformations often take longer than what most leaders expect. In fact, the pressure to deliver results faster is more pronounced on CIOs, whose average tenure is just 4.6 years. As a result, the emphasis is on seeing the short-term results instead of focussing on long-term gains. It is also common for organizations to deviate from their plans and chase new technologies, processes, and tools without spending the required time to complete the transformation in its true sense. Organizations should realize that Agile is as much about processes as it is about people and culture. Changing the organizational culture is not simple and requires sustained efforts and iterations.

Acting Agile, Instead of Being Agile

Lastly, it is seen that organizations get caught up in Agile practices and routines (standups, sprints, retrospectives, etc.), without actually embracing Agile in its essence. It is important for organizations to ensure that the Agile routines do not become an impediment and that teams should be allowed to adopt and tweak them as per their convenience. Further, Agile transformation can be successful only when it’s across the organization, team, and also at the individual level. Practicing agile is as crucial as thinking Agile. To learn more, you can watch our webinar about the importance of Being Agile vs. Doing Agile.

With the above points in mind, organizational leaders can avoid the most common pitfalls in their agile transformation journey. Please, subscribe to our blog to find similar stories in your inbox.