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7 simple ways to fail at agile

John Edwards | Oct. 26, 2017
Creating and sustaining a successful agile program requires a strong commitment and careful planning. Yet ruining a functional agile initiative is remarkably easy.

Many agile teams use test-driven development practices, in which test cases are written before the code. "They also use automated tools to maximize the number of tests that can be run on the code," Zucker days. "Agile also expects close collaboration with the product owner, enabling the team to deliver exactly what was expected."


6. Fail to win management and staff support

Agile's benefits are clear, yet it's a mistake to assume that all parties, particularly enterprise leaders, will be on board from the very beginning. "Transformations are very expensive, which creates pressure for immediate results," Elliott says. "It’s important that before you start a true agile transformation you make sure someone at the top of your organization supports it, can win the political battles and can repeat the 'why' over and over to the team."

The best way to win support is to demonstrate that agile will actually increase the odds of a successful product delivery. "This has been empirically tested to be true under certain conditions, but should never be taken for granted," says Areiel Wolanow, managing director of financial security consulting firm Finserv Experts. "To win support for agile, you need to convince your stakeholders that the critical success factors for agile hold true for your particular program."

It's also important to address the concerns of staff and managers who fear that agile may negatively affect their careers. "People want to be agile because they intuitively know that they are a relic if they don’t, but it has to be safe for them to make the move," Elliott says.

Zucker concurs. "Employees need to know that management will 'let go' and allow them to be self-managing," he says. "They also need to see that they can fail small and not be punished."


7. Disregard customer feedback

Customer feedback is integral to the agile delivery process. "One of the key differentiators between agile disciplines and traditional delivery methodologies is that agile programs expect feedback to be available throughout the project, not just at mandated control gates," Wolanow says.

Customer feedback is essential for ensuring that whatever the agile team is building will be useful. "In the absence of customer feedback, it's exceedingly difficult to prioritize which areas to focus on and teams may end up treating everything as important — which is the same as treating nothing as important," Aziz says.

"Agile builds customers into the process, and that is key to why it works," Elliott says. "Involve customers in all aspects of planning and development and your likelihood of wining in your market go up exponentially."

Another important point to remember is that the agile team will use — and rely on — customer feedback when it goes into its retrospective at the end of iteration. "In the retrospective, the team analyzes what went well in that build increment and what can be improved," Zucker says. "Changes to the internal process are [then] implemented in the next build cycle."


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