Agile is not workingHello all,

Today I want to share some thinking. Time to time, when I talk with colleges (normally not agile colleges) I listen things like: “Agile is not working at all” or “We tried agile in my company and it didn’t work”. After few answer and questions, I tried to explain the why (IMHO) and how important is a coach or a dedicated Scrum master , but at the end I always ask myself if the people want to become agile or they only want to apply something cool in their teams.


I don’t know  if you had situation like these ones, but all start with a big frustration and complain about agile/scum. Here is a compilation of comments I got in different opportunities:

  • “Agile didn’t work in our organization, we applied agile, but we were not able delivery any new software”
  • “At the moment we applied agile, marketing team was not able to get anything in production”
  • “We are doing scrum now, but the team after few sprints decided to avoid daily stand up and retrospectives. Team need time to delivery software, no time to miss in meetings.”
  • “We tried agile for 3 month, and we decided to rollback to old way to work. We work better now.”
  • “Our PM team tried to build agile teams across the company, but at the end, they realize that the PO is like the PM and the SM is like the manager, so PM team continue working in the same way, but they add new titles. PM is now the PO and the line manager is the SM of the team of around 12 people.We are agile.”
  • “After tried agile, we realized that we need to change the full structure, layoff managers, contract SMs, and give the title of PO to all PMs. At the end, too complicate compared to the benefit that we could get in our pilot project”
  • “We deploy agile in developer teams, but PM are working in waterfall. We are not able to evaluate the result, but we are agile now.”
  • “We don’t do agile because in agile the documentation does not exist, all our projects need documentation”
  • “With agile, we are not able to work in a “contract basic” with our clients”
  • “Self-organization is not in the way our organization is working”

I am sure I am missing more, but it is a good compilation of what I have in my mind now. When I listen these arguments, my first question is:

“Why do you think that you need agile in your company?”

And more or less the answer are something like that: “A lot of companies are doing agile, we need to do it. It is like all in the market are doing agile, we don’t want to miss the train[…]”. Of course, some times the answer are more coherent, like we need to improve our delivery time, or we need to arrive to the marker faster than our competence, or we need to cut our costs.

In any case, no all the people understand that deploy agile is not only deploy new procedures. Deploy agile is change the mindset of every single people in the company, starting with the CEO/President. Deploy agile means no more “command and control” reactions.

There are a lot of info about the benefits from agile, few of them are:

  • Faster ROI
  • Lower Risk
  • Lower Defect Density
  • More Transparency & Better Visibility

My impression is like few people think that agile is a easy process/methodology to deploy. All of them have in mind “agile” as a new way of work or new procedures; however, agile is a full mindset change, and change the mindset of people is a complex work and it takes time.

To start ending this post, the conclusion from these talks are

  • Companies should not change to agile if they are not getting any issue with the actual procedures/methodology.  If they want to innovate or try what other companies are doing,  the company should really support the pilot project and deploy agile in the right way. At the end, it is very important to be able to compare results.
  • In agile exist documentation, it is not like in waterfall, but documentation is part of agile projects. The agile manifest says: “Working software over comprehensive documentation”.  It never says no documentation at all. Very important to define the right level of documentation for each project.
  • If the company decides to deploy agile, it does not means the company need to layoff people. Maybe some kind of reorganization needs to be done, and some change roles, but it is far away from layoff people ready to change the mindset.
  • Deploy agile allow companies become more transparent and work with customers as partner.  If as company, you are able to work with your customers as partners, you could build contracts with an agile approach. With a good agile approach contract, you will learn to work together with your customer (partner).  You will part of their failures and success, you will build a stronger relationship and  classic contracts will not be any more an obstacle.
  • Self-organization does not means “we don’t need more managers”. In agile we really need a strong team of management and leadership. This team is in charge of setting up boundaries. Boundaries allow teams to self-organize itself. Without boundaries  we could create a chaos in the company and that is not the goal of agile. “Manager3.0” book from Jurgen Appelo is strongly recommended to understand the role of management in agile environment. The book is like a excellent resume of many management approaches. Jurgen Appelo took a lot of information already existing from different books, he add very good tweak/adaptation here and there. At the end, in my opinion the book is a must read for any person want to start changing  things. You will get very good stuff to apply right away without invest a lot of money.
  • PMs could fill very easy the role of PO, however, they need to change something very important in the way they approach the agile team. Normally PMs approach the team in a “PUSH” thinking. They need to change that for a “PULL” mentality. It means PO is “pulling” thing from agile teams. PM are “pushing” stuff to traditional teams. As soon as PMs understand it, he/she could become the best fit for a PO role. POs need to set the “what”, the team will decide the “how”.
  • One important part of Scrum framework is the ceremonies. It includes daily stand up and retrospectives. Each meeting was designed to address something very specific, for example in each retrospective is a very good moment to “inspect and adapt”. Team need to take a look what they did and try to improve it.
  • SM is not a line manager, it is a leadership. One of the big responsibilities is guide the team to become one high performance team. He/she has more responsibility, as remove impediments, but the end goal is the same: “build high performance teams”.
  • In agile we celebrates failures, and we learn from them to become stronger in the future.
  • In agile we really believe in games. Games are a very interesting tool to learn (it is not only apply to agile), it allows the team to learn faster and get a lot of fun at work. If we used games as kids to learn, why could not we use them in our work environment to learn faster and get fun? I am a lover of game meetings, I get always good results and a lot of fun.

As Agile coach and Scrum Master, I really like challengers and deploy agile is one of the big ones for me. It is not only deploy a new way of work. It is also work with people and help them to change the mindset. What I also love from agile is that you can not apply agile in the same way always, people natural complexity don’t allow this. When people arrive to change their mindset, right away she/he starts to play with the freedom agile generates. People like to be creative, spontaneous and use agile in their way.

What is your experience in this topics?  I am really interesting in your thinking. Feel free to share here please.

Thank you,


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About the author

Omar is an agile practitioner and lover. Certified Scrum master. Agile Coach & Agile Leader. He believes it is important to continually be learning and growing. His dream is to be a lifelong learner; growing each day. He is also passionate about leadership development and seeing people reach their full potential. He is also a good husband & father (his wife says that time to times). He has a wonderful wife and 2 fantastic kids. In his free time, if he does not have any plan ahead, he tries to apply agile methodologies at the family level :). He enjoys a lot to travel with his family and discovers new places for them.