Isn’t Agile meant to make everything easier, better, and faster?
Blog: Capgemini CTO Blog
In short, ‘Yes!’ Agile is meant to make project management and solution development easier, better and faster but this does not mean that Agile is perfect or that you can select the best bits in expectation of a perfect outcome. Agile, according to the AgileLion Insitute, is a mindset, and a way of doing things that enables us to quickly respond to change, and deliver value in spite of uncertainty. This definition is rooted in the Agile Manifesto’s four core values.
Then why do organisations find themselves in projects and programmes that end up as a hybrid of project methods including, but not limited to, Agile/Scrum/Waterfall/SAFe/DAD methods? A major issue our clients cite over and over again is not with Agile methods or even tools themselves, but adoption and embedment within their organisation.
After 5 years’ experience in Agile project delivery and development, in the private and public sector the 3 most common areas where organisations have issues with adopting Agile and what are some ways of overcoming them?
Top 3 Common areas where Agile adoption can be difficult and how to overcome them
1.The perception that Agile means no planning, and no Project Management.
- THE PROBLEM:
→ Often in organisations that are struggling to adopt Agile, the project’s business requirements are inputted into JIRA as a ‘backlog’ and there is an assumption that, as an empowered Agile Scrum team, the work will be assigned, and the Scrum Master or Business Analyst will control the backlog. Therefore no planning or project management is required and as a result of this a lack of RAID tracking, decision tracking and lack of tracking progress.
- THE FIX:
→ The fourth core value of the Agile Manifesto is ‘responding to change over following a plan. This does NOT mean do not have a plan, however as part of an Agile Project the organisation should embrace change to that plan.
→ In fact there is, arguably, more planning in an Agile project, when one considers backlog refinement, sprint planning, sprint kick off, demo to the business etc. Therefore in order to ensure governance regular scrum drumbeat meetings with the team are required.
2. Agile projects do not have a clearly defined final product.
- THE PROBLEM:
→ In the real world of strict budgets and deadlines, organisations believe that risk increases when details remain undefined from the outset. Asking finance departments to release thousands of pounds can be difficult when an Agile project cannot clearly define exactly what the final product will be.
- THE FIX:
→ However, Agile promotes starting any project with a clear Product Vision, that the Scrum team will then develop into the best product. This allows the team to respond to change and using working software/ working models of the product.
→ The benefit here is building a product that more accurately matches the organisations vision, and also had been refined and reworked to realise possible unknown benefit.
→ If there is hesitation in providing funding to Agile projects, organisations can also go as far as re-vamping their funding process to relate funding incrementally, in line with the phases of Agile delivery.
3. Agile needs to be supported by the top. Reporting to traditional Waterfall structure hierarchy and project management styles will inevitably reduce adoption across the organisation.
- THE PROBLEM:
→ Often on Agile Projects, Scrum teams are asked to provide sprint planning overviews and report into Waterfall, traditional governance structure. Though at a high-level this is not a problem, the possible change in scope and direction of each sprint needs to be clearly communicated to the overarching powers.
- THE FIX:
→ Ensuring that everyone understands the reasons behind the organisation wanting to adopt Agile Methods and what level of Agile adopting suits the organisation. The best way of achieving this would be through an Agile ways of working training and planning workshop. So that each person of the organisation is better aligned and aware of Agile methods.
→ The organisation needs to train all of its people in Agile methods and Ways of Working not just those who use the tools. The organisation and its Scrum teams should kick off with an Agile Ways of Working workshop when embarking on any Agile project or change to increase adoption.
Key takeaway’s and conclusion
One key takeaway that will always make a difference when trying to increase Agile adoption is prioritising change management within the project team and the organisation. Agile is not only a new way of running a project, it is a new mindset.
Also keep in mind that when a project starts to spiral out of control, aka current Agile methods are not working, people tend to fall back to familiar or safe habits; ironically this is often when Agile methods are best suited. An Agile focus on quality first can aid in rapid benefit realisation, whilst constant backlog refinement and reprioritisation can bring focus to a project. When Agile is embedded within an organisation