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Why Agile Fails: the Transformation Conundrum - Part II

Development Process, Software Development, Software Solutions

Guest post by Ankur Saxena

Last Week I began a discussion into why agile transformation may fail. I will be continuing the discussion today.

Often, we ignore the ominous signs that are screaming for change, and we continue to deliver inferior products or services, blaming either the teams that delivered them, or the leadership for failures along the way. We never realize that we may have unknowingly built a system around us that forces us to produce such outcomes. It is important to sometimes take a step back and ask ourselves the question “Why do we do things the way we do them?” This not only pushes us to find better ways of accomplishing things, but can also assist in identifying the process bottlenecks and the waste that builds up over time. It also allows us to build a culture of ensuring that whatever we do adds value to the organization. Employing powerful techniques such as Value Stream Mapping, and Five Whys can give great insights into our existing process, and help us identify waste and process bottlenecks. Process waste is one of the primary causes of increased lead times, inferior product quality, and WIP build-up; which is why it is important to continuously work towards making the processes lean.
While need identification, and ensuring that the chosen agile framework fits the mold, is a critical first step, it is only one piece of the transformation puzzle, albeit a big one. Once the need is established, the next challenge is the actual implementation of it. This is when an organization should start devising and gradually implementing the strategy for scaling agile across the organization. As with all things in agile, this should also be done iteratively. This will not only ensure that every step taken is in the right direction, but also that it’s built on a solid foundation.


Too many organizations make the mistake of doing too much too soon, because their main focus is to attain the agile nirvana fast, so much so that they stop enjoying the journey to get there. This sometimes shocks the entire system, and the whole world goes spinning like it was kicked out of its orbit. This is more like enforcing change, which usually leads to quick and dirty implementations. And as they say, the problem with quick and dirty is that the dirty remains after the quick is forgotten. It is necessary that we realize that change doesn’t happen overnight, and if we want to evolve as a leaner, meaner, and a robust organization that is more than capable of handling today’s cutthroat competition, then we have to learn to be patient with the transformation process and allow the necessary time to bring on the change.


Those of us who believe in continuous improvement know that being agile is a journey and not a destination, so it is important that we celebrate the little successes along the way instead of trying to get to the end sooner. While there is no destination, that isn’t to say that there is no such thing as agile nirvana. With time, teams and organizations definitely reach varying degrees and levels of agile maturity, and the fastest way to get there is not by speeding up the implementation, or by burning the midnight oil, but by creating the right environment, building a strong leadership support, a culture of belief, trust, and continuous improvement, identifying and empowering the champions of change, and most of all being patient and enjoying the transformation journey.
Join me again next week as I wrap up this discussion

TAGS: Development Process, Software Development, Software Solutions

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