Agile adoption traps that you must avoid

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

Agile is a mindset, a set of values and principles that individuals and teams can follow when developing software. Agile is not a methodology, a specific way of doing something, a framework or a process. It is a collection of beliefs based on three pillars; transparency, inspection, and adaptation. This allows teams and organizations to be effective in what they do. The traditional project management focuses on the three main project constraints, scope, time and cost, while agile tackles a fourth parameter, value - yes, that is "Value Creation" - developing further on to lean mindset - #Lean is all about "Value Optimization".

Agile is being just a trend and majority of individuals, teams organizations may get into agile without really understanding what it is - this is one key reason why they may get into a destructive patterns and habits that don't allow them to achieve their primary goals and solve the fundamental issues or problems.

My observations say that we tend to get into a few fundamental traps that will not allow us to be agile and here I am discussing the top 5 traps that we must avoid!

But, first thing first - What is agile?

The Agile Manifesto is a formal proclamation of the four key values and twelve supporting principles that guide the various iterative and people-centric approaches towards software development. The different agile methodologies practiced around the world, use these values and principles as guidelines towards satisfying the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

Lengthy specifications, extensively detailed plans, and unyielding bureaucracy are no longer useful! The key to agility is the practice of transparency, inspection, and adaptation. We clearly see that leading organizations like Google, Facebook, Amazon stay abreast of business and technological advancements by deploying transformational leadership, cross-functional self-organizing teams, frequent customer release cycles and Agile engineering practices that support iterative and incremental delivery.

So, What are the Agile Transformation Traps?

I and Toby V Rao, Washington DC based agile leader had a fantastic live talk on the same and you can access the video below.

Trap #1: Just focusing adoption instead of transformation

Adoption is just practicing, transformation is changing the culture. CULTURE is OVERLOOKED mostly by most of the companies trying to be agile.

Adoption is easy, but transformation is tough. Agile transformation means, committing to the change implementations and changing the way you think, your behaviors and value system.

If you don't manage culture, it manages you - most transformations fail since you DON't understand the culture.

One other thing is just adopting Scrum, Kanban, XP or any other FRAMEWORK is not just enough. Not focusing on cultural changes is a guaranteed way of failing on your agile transformation efforts.

Trap #2: Thinking Agile is a process or set of processes is a trap

Agile is not a process - it's a mindset. Agile Manifesto defines agile this way "It's an idea that is supported by a set of values and beliefs". In other words, agile can provide you a culture where you you have a set of values and belief system to operate.

To adopt a process, you don't need a culture - just knowing the practice itself would be sufficient. This is exactly the problem in many organizations - they don't see agile as something beyond a set of processes.

Agile is mostly introduced as a product to the common pain points such as late delivery, quality issues - the introduction of agile is considered a silver bullet to solve all their pains - that's a myth - it can solve the problems, but, first you must acknowledge the correct problems.

Agile is a way of thinking, a mindset that will allow you to inspect and adapt.

Trap #3: Thinking that Agile is a silver bullet

Agile Doesn't work for Chaotic situations or might not be necessary for complicated problems. You may not need to be agile for solving obvious problems too.

𝗬𝗲𝘀, 𝘀𝘂𝗿𝗲𝗹𝘆, 𝗔𝗴𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗗𝗼𝗲𝘀𝗻'𝘁 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗸 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗼𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝘀𝗶𝘁𝘂𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀

Well, nothing would work for #chaotic problems - you are not structured enough so that you can try out any structured approach

𝘛𝘳𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘤𝘭𝘢𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘺 𝘣𝘦𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘢𝘨𝘪𝘭𝘦 or any other framework! #cowboy#cowboy approach may work 🙈

𝗔𝗴𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗻𝗲𝗲𝗱𝗲𝗱 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘀𝗶𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗲, 𝗼𝗯𝘃𝗶𝗼𝘂𝘀 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗯𝗹𝗲𝗺𝘀

Use it, no problem, yet, no much deeper attention and frameworks needed to solve #obvious problems.

𝘞𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘢𝘨𝘪𝘭𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘢𝘨𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘥𝘢𝘺 - 𝘸𝘦𝘭𝘭, 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 - 𝘪𝘧 𝘯𝘦𝘦𝘥 𝘣𝘦, 𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘪𝘵 - 𝘣𝘶𝘵, 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘣𝘦 𝘧𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘢𝘨𝘪𝘭𝘦.

𝗔𝗴𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗻𝗲𝗲𝗱𝗲𝗱 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗶𝗰𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗯𝗹𝗲𝗺𝘀

Well, these problems are structured and predictable - use 𝑺𝒆𝒏𝒔𝒆, 𝑨𝒏𝒂𝒍𝒚𝒔𝒆 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝑹𝒆𝒔𝒑𝒐𝒏𝒅 𝒂𝒑𝒑𝒓𝒐𝒂𝒄𝒉 - #traditional#projectmanagement methods will perfectly be fine!

𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘮𝘢𝘺 𝘦𝘮𝘱𝘭𝘰𝘺 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘸𝘦𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘢𝘨𝘪𝘭𝘦 𝘧𝘳𝘢𝘮𝘦𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘬𝘴 𝘴𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘢𝘴 𝘒𝘢𝘯𝘣𝘢𝘯 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦.

𝗔𝗴𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗯𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝗳𝗶𝘁 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗖𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗲𝘅 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗯𝗹𝗲𝗺𝘀

Agile is extremely useful for solving #complexproblems where you don't see the end of the tunnel - there is uncertainty and complexity involved - so go for 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗯𝗲 - 𝗦𝗲𝗻𝘀𝗲 - 𝗥𝗲𝘀𝗽𝗼𝗻𝗱. This is where iterative and incremental approach will greatly help you to progress and increment towards your final solution.

Trap #4: Semantic Diffusion applied in your agile transformation

I first heard this term from Micheal Sahota in his book "An Agile Adoption and Transformation Survival Guide: Working with Organizational Culture". He is spot on!

A ward coined by some one gets spread in a way its meaning weakened - that weakening can risk losing the meaning entirely.

I have met several teams and practitioners who understand the practices but have no clue about the agile mindset, agile values and principles. Agile is bound to fail that way.

Instead, you must call out failure - acknowledging that you have a problem is the first step of been successful. If you don't see the problem, how do you solve it?

Challenges the status quo, get the teams to thing critically, figure out what issues are around, create clarity around what "Agile" means to you and what genuinely does mean - they must match.

Trap #5: Agile is not applied organizationally

State of Agile Survey 2020 reported that we have significant gaps in enterprise level agile implementations - The survey shockingly reported that on 18% companies are fully agile.

In the same survey report, 44% of respondents reported that less than a half of their teams are agile. My observation is very similar to that - mostly, only the development teams are agile - that is a sub-optimal setup - which will not allow you to transform in to agile - it can only allow you to adopt some agile practices.

Bringing It All Together!

Agile is a mindset based on Empirical Process Control targeting the optimum value delivery to the clients. There are different agile frameworks which help you to manage your projects and product development through agile practices based on agile values and principles. Agile is easy to understand and very challenging to master! Try to understand the basics, create clarity around the problems that you are trying to solve through agile. Enable the empirical process control - I am sure, you will never be trapped.

About the Author

Niro is an award-winning agile leader, one of the credible agile coaches and, an agile delivery expert from the magical island, Sri Lanka. He currently serve Vetstoria as the head of projects and he founded the agile great. He is an international keynoter, trainer and a university lecturer as well. In the last 12 years, Niro has grown exponentially using agile strategies and personal branding strategies.

Now, he wants to share his secrets with you! Whether it is agile strategies, personal branding or growth strategies, Niro will take you through the proven, simple, step by step actions to guide you to live the life you dream of faster than you ever thought possible.

Good luck!


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