In a world governed by “disrupt or be disrupted,” organizations need to re-invent themselves and become high-performing and adaptable to thrive.

To stay relevant in today’s markets, organizations need to build an ability to redirect their priorities and people towards value-creating opportunities quickly.

Many larger organizations tend to move slowly and find quickly responding to change an insurmountable task, unlike their smaller and more nimble competitors.

The biggest impediment for organizations in their transformation is the bureaucracy based on policy and process barriers inherent to the industrial era organizational structure and management philosophy.

Organizations generally start their transformation by piloting Agile frameworks and methods to provide autonomy to developers and product representatives and empower them to make relevant decisions around implementation.

While this does look like a great strategy to experiment with Agile at the onset, this piecemeal approach leads to sub-component optimization at best.

The Agile methods, which provide alignment, planning, and cadence for small teams, fall painfully short when implementing the same across hundreds of people needed to build very complex products.

Organizations must apply Agile values and principles in a large, distributed, or high-compliance environment. They should extend the Agile principles to Agile teams and portfolios, thus providing efficiencies and linking the enterprise’s strategy to execution.

Organizations need the knowledge and success patterns critical to bring various departments like business, technology, operations, legal, finance, support, compliance, security, and others to continually deliver innovative, high-quality products faster than the competition.

Organizations should integrate Agile-adjacent principles such as Lean and DevOps to support a continuously evolving system aligned to customer needs and the rapid changes in the technology and market landscapes.

In a nutshell, an organization should take a systemic approach that enables the business to deliver innovative products and stay ahead of the competition. Scaled Agile Framework ® (SAFe®) has emerged as the answer for the organizations’ quest to succeed in business agility.

SAFe, the world’s leading framework that integrates the power of Lean, Agile, and DevOps into a comprehensive operating system, helps enterprises thrive by delivering innovative products and services faster, more predictably, and with higher quality.

SAFe supports the full spectrum of solutions, from those requiring a small number of teams to those complex systems that require hundreds of people to build & deliver.

Top 10 Reasons Why Agile Transformations Fail

While many organizations attempt agile transformations, there are many who fail than those who succeed. Being overly ambitious and having unrealistic expectations is the mindset when attempting Agile transformation. 

During the course of our experience of Agile Coaching, here are the top 10 reasons why Agile Transformations fail-

1. Lack of knowledge and experience with Agile Methods: As per the 15th State of Agile Report, 42% of the respondents reported that one of  the agile adoption challenges was lack of skills and experience with Agile methods. 

Organizations that don’t have agile training attempt agile transformation and fail miserably.

2. Agile Values at odds with organizational values: This has been one of the main challenges that key decision-makers face when bringing in any kind of transformation and agile is no different. 

43% of the respondents reported agile values at odds with organizational values as per the 15th State of Agile Report.

3. Trying to replicate other agile transformations: The corporate world is filled with a lot of agile success stories.  This influences many organizations to use that as a textbook case study to implement all the best practices followed. 

This leads to absolute failure. It’s either this or an Agile Coach who suggests changes or implementation of agile practices from their coaching experience.

4. Hiring the wrong people: Agile transformations are driven by people. Not investing time and money in hiring the right people will make agile transformation a distant reality. 

Do you know the one mistake that organizations commit when hiring?

Take a wild guess! 

It’s hiring only the star performers. 

What? How is it a mistake?

Star performers are always the most sought-after members of the team. Any problem or issue, the go-to person is the alway a star performer. They end up solving others’ problems that they end up not completing their individual tasks. 

Overburdened with tasks, they either suffer burnout or fail miserably. 

You might be interested in reading: Why External Agile Coaches Are Better for Your Agile Transformation

5. Irregular communication and coordination: The Agile transformation falls flat only because of one drawback. 

Inconsistent communication and coordination between teams in larger organizations lead to botched agile transformation.

One of the main values of Agile is ‘Individual and Interactions over tools and processes.’ But, there’s an impediment because communication between distributed agile teams is irregular. 

Agile is based on short sprints and if communication is missing, then agile transformation will be a colossal disaster.

6. Team opposed to Agile values: What would be the outcome if the team members are not on the same page when it comes to implementing Agile? 

The unwillingness of the team to follow Agile values arises when they want to be recognized by functions. There’s a conflict when a team member feels their authority is being undermined.

7. Improper training: 35% of the respondents in the 15th State of Agile Report cited ‘Insufficient training and education’ to be one of the challenges in adopting Agile. 

Improper training means either of three things such as nobody received training, not everybody who required training received it, or the training was lacklustre.

There should be no compromise on the quality of agile training. Saving a few bucks might lead to a loss in billions. 

Recommended Reading: What Is Agile Training and Why Agile Scrum Should Be Your Next Career

8. Misguided belief about Agile transformations: Most organizations believe that Agile transformations happen overnight. In reality, it takes anywhere between 1 to 3 years. The initial benefits may appear but the overhaul that takes several years is not instantaneous. 

9. Extrinsic pressure to follow waterfall approach: 35% of the respondents reported pervasiveness to traditional development methods. In many organizations, Agile teams and waterfall teams would be working under a common head but the unwillingness to coexist makes it difficult.

The leadership personnel must be educated that the pros of Agile outweigh those of Waterfall.

10. Confining Agile to Pilots: While starting small is good, many organizations wait for the pilot project to succeed. Pilot projects are small and they won’t be able to replicate the same success as a larger agile transformation can. 

Taking baby steps to start a pilot project is good but limiting it isn’t. Applying agile values and practices throughout the organization will give you tangible results.

Solutions To Make Agile Transformations Successful

If there are reasons why Agile transformations fail, then are solutions as well. 

  • Opt for Agile Coaching: Investing in agile coaching and proper agile training will help you receive hands-on training enabling knowledge and experience with Agile methods.
  • Embrace Agile Values: Agile is “how you think” and then “what you do”. For successful transformation to take place, agile values have to take precedence over organizational values.
  • Create your custom plan for Agile Transformation: Just because the organization that underwent agile transformation happened to be in the same domain, you should not be blindly copying their strategy. The problems and requirements of your organization could be as different as apples and oranges. Agile is practiced by running experiments and learning from mistakes.
  • Right the right people with the right agile expertise: To invest in hiring the right people, you need to hire people with the right mindset, values, and personality. Some agile projects require inherent skills, your focus should be to find them. Don’t hire out of desperation. That will only lead to chaos.
  • Take the leadership team into confidence: Educating the leadership personnel and taking them into confidence will help solve this problem. Team coaching will help resolve the team’s resistance to change. 

Additional Reading: 13 Easy Tips to Create an Agile Persona

Myths of Agile Transformation

Failure of Agile Transformations can also be attributed to some prevalent myths about Agile transformations. Here are some of the myths that we have debunked to educate you. 

Here are the 10 debunked myths about Agile transformation-

1. Agile transformation is a puffery: Agile transformation is real and has been proven through research studies. The results and practices have been drafted into books and guides to help organizations in their transformation. 

2. Agile transformation works only for IT and Product Development: Agile transformation starts from a company-wide perspective. It does offer better results to some functions. Apply agile values to the parts which can benefit the most. 

3. Agile transformation is for everyone: Only after an extensive analysis should one decide to go for an agile transformation. Identify the problem areas and decide if agility is the right solution. It should offer a solution rather than complicate things further.

4. Agile transformation is uniform throughout the organization: Agile transformation works differently across functions. Drafting a blueprint and identifying value streams and how they prove beneficial is the way ahead for transformation. 

5. Agile transformation is nothing but Scrum applied at scale: Agile transformation and Scrum aren’t the same things. It advocates team coordination and flexible changes in plans.

Become an Enterprise Agile Coach- Enroll in the Enterprise Agile Coach (ICP-CAT) Certification Training

6. Agile transformations are possible through more Agile teams and pilots: Agile transformations involve more than just pilot projects and teams. There’s a lot of restructuring involved such as core processes, building new capabilities, and leadership mindsets. 

7. Agile transformation is anarchic as it comes at the cost of reliability and predictability: Agile transformation is inclusive of stability and dynamism. Scaling agile transformation is only possible when the cornerstone is sturdy in a volatile business organization.

8. Agile transformation is only about productivity: Speed and adaptability are the real benefits of agile transformation. While supersonic speed, versatility, and enhanced employee engagement increase output, the main role of agile is to cement a place of strength.

9. A massive agile transformation is risky: The pros and cons of a massive agile transformation are dependent on the situation. Complicated environments with rigid structures require changes in increments while big top-down involves resetting the organization to manage agile and non-agile functions.

10. Agile transformations are possible in 6 months: Agile transformations are not possible overnight. Read as 6 months. They could either take 1 or 3 years. The merits appear quickly where there are agile bases and pilots.

Full-scale agile transformation takes several years and needs the application of evolving agile practices

Additional Reading: Agile Transformation and High-Performance Teams

Bottom-Line

Agile transformations fail only because organizations have a lack of understanding of the Agile methodology. The leadership should be educated and made aware of the advantages of agile. 

Only this can eliminate the resistance to the agile values. The lack of leadership participation is one of the main reasons why agile fails. The management should invest in training the employees in agile. 

Selecting the right people with an agile mindset, qualities, and values is imperative to agile transformation. 

If you’re struggling with your organization’s agile transformation, our consultants might have a solution. 

Reach out to us and we’ll do the rest.

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Author's Bio
Agilemania

We are a team of Professional Scrum Trainers (PST) and Enterprise Agile coaches actively working as Scrum Trainers, Agile Coaches, Scrum Masters/Product Owners aimed at delivering quality and consistency for our students across the globe.