Agile continues to be a hot topic in mainstream project management publications and events and most organizations have shifted from debating whether or not to explore agile practices to evaluating the success they’ve had with their use.
As I’ve discussed in previous articles on the subject, agile requires a cultural and personal change more than the introduction of any specific set of practices, hence it is quite common to find companies that feel they are being agile when in reality, nothing has really changed. I would compare this to the how most people practice an organized religion. A devotee may go through the motions of following the rules of a religion without really embracing the meaning behind the implementation. Worse, the advocates for the religion may themselves focus more on form than on intent – they may talk the talk, but rarely do they truly walk the walk. This unfortunately is the risk inherent to any set of principles that are realized through a specific methodology.
So what are some symptoms that can help you identify a “shallow” adoption of agile principles within your company?
- The number of formal sign-offs or hand-offs between departments or between project teams and customers has not decreased.
- The quantity or size of project by-products (e.g. documentation) has not decreased and these by-products continue to be used by teams as a measure of progress.
- Daily scrums take up most of the morning.
- Sprint velocity would be better termed lethargy.
- Reflection or refactoring activities have become finger-pointing and “start from scratch” sessions.
- Project managers continue to serve as information middlemen instead of encouraging a reduction in communication distance between key project participants.
- The use of proxies for the customer is the rule, not the exception.
Perhaps what we need is someone to help us avoid these traditional pitfalls of adopting agile by learning to truly embrace pragmatic but applicable principles. “Knowing is not enough, we must apply” – Bruce Lee