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What is an agile anti-pattern? In agile or scrum, anti-patterns are bad practices that folks follow in the hopes of making improvements. Unfortunately, they do the opposite by hampering your efforts and slowing your progress towards achieving Agile goals. Here are 5 agile anti-patterns that you might unknowingly be doing in your organization:

1. Not Knowing the Value of the Agile Principles in Your Context

Knowing is half the battle, as someone famous once said. We've probably all read The Agile Manifesto and the 12 Principles of Agile, but have we talked about them at length and discussed the value they will bring to our context within our company? Try this: Designate a location in your online collaboration space to document The Agile Manifesto and the 12 Principles, and have teams write anecdotes on how they relate to your company's mission and vision. You will find that this simple act will affect how folks approach an agile mindset and they will start considering the principles in everything they do.


2. Changing the Vocabulary but Not Changing the Fundamental Ways of Working

Declaring that you are "agile" and labeling activities with agile terminology does not make an organization agile. That sounds obvious, right? For example, having a one-hour meeting every day and calling it a "stand-up" is a major anti-pattern (daily stand-ups should be 15 minutes or less). Try this: Don't allow the meetings to be labeled as agile ceremonies until they embody the spirit of the ceremony. Label them for what they are to make it clear to everyone that they are not quite there yet.


3. No Retrospectives, or No Action Items from Them

If your teams are not holding retrospectives, they're not improving their process and increasing value delivery. Some teams have "voted" to remove retrospectives from their ceremonies because "nothing ever comes of it," or "it's a waste of time". Try this: Hold a whole-program retrospective with the large group and model the behavior for the teams. Then ask teams to incorporate 1-2 action items per sprint and share them in the Scrum Master CoP or the Scrum of Scrums. 


4. Doing Mini-Waterfalls, or Separating Development & QA Entities

Do you still find yourself, at the end of the sprint, with a pile of work on the QA person's desk? And at the start of the sprint, they're twiddling their thumbs waiting for Dev to hand them something? This is a mini-waterfall. Try this: Cross-train your team. Gone are the days where we specialize in just one part of the software delivery life cycle. 


5. Misuse of the Roles

Combining roles, or assigning roles but not letting the individual perform that role fully, is a common anti-pattern. Lumping Scrum Master and Product Owner into one role will hamper your efforts at achieving better value delivery. The Scrum Master is dedicated to assisting the team in working the right way, and the Product Owner is there to help the team with building the right thing. Try this: If the company can't afford to dedicate one person to each role, utilize the Scrum Master and Product Owner on multiple teams. It's not ideal, but it will provide clear roles and responsibilities for these individuals.

Becoming agile is a journey and it certainly doesn't happen over night. Even organizations that have been practicing agile methods for years have to periodically examine if they have anti-patterns that prevent value delivery. It's best to have an Agile Center of Excellence group in order to keep folks on track for overall improvement. 

Interested in learning more about implementing or improving agile within your organization? Contact us today!

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