How Enterprise Agile Adoption Can Fail

The Top 5 Challenges that I Have Personally Seen

I was in attendance at an enterprise agile rollout risk/mitigation session last week where the topic was brainstorming ways in which the rollout of enterprise agility could conceivably fail. The idea was to identify the potential failures modes, and then put in place a risk mitigation strategy for those that jumped to the top of the pareto chart. Much of the session was relevant only to that companies particular context, but it gave me a chance to reflect on the major risks that I have witnessed – not imagined, but actually experienced – and here they are:

  • Dev managers/executives who either don’t believe in agile or hide behind the rationale that it takes a very long time to deliver quality software and that an extensive period of analysis and design is necessary
    before any value delivery, i.e.
    • (“we need 4-6 months of analysis and design now to avoid future rework”)
  • Teams can’t execute basic technical practices that are necessary to meet short iterations.
    • Whether due to Lack of training, commitment, ability, infrastructure or whatever, let’s admit it – agile is hard at the engineering level
  • HR/organization policies do not support personnel change driven by agile, i.e.
    • (“Our people are our asset, is it incumbent on us to make them successful here, and in their current role”)
  • Forced prioritization rejected flatly by Product Managers who simply mandate that they want it all and it is all critical, i.e.,
    • “we must have it ALL and by THEN or we cannot compete in the marketplace”
  • Executives having to admit that they cannot predict or guarantee long term deliverables, i.e.
    • “We are a professional company, we can and do make specific, long term commitments to our customers, they, nor I, expect anything less.”

These are some tough challenges for the agile champions, but as with any addiction, recognizing the problem is the first step towards recovery!


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