Dance your way to Agile Implementation success

Implementation of agile is more complex than anyone imagined. The Agile manifesto laid out the fundamental values and principles that gave it a solid core. Yet, with tons of failed implementations and a surprising lack of empirical evidence suggesting success, there is growing criticism.

Classroom to reality gap

The manifesto values and principles make common sense and sound perfectly logical. That is great for the classroom, so we have seen the mushrooming of a big industry around Agile training. However, people have grossly underestimated the issues around the classroom translation of the concepts to actual implementations in real-life contexts. The gap between the classroom to reality is quite wide.

In some places, agile is really brilliantly implemented. Those places have rich dividends, and it is a pleasure to watch the beauty in action.

The agile manifesto, scrum and the plethora of concepts that have come under the umbrella of what we call agile are all fantastic — but they work under certain circumstances. Those circumstances are not common and will never be because of the domain, geographical and other differentiations. It is a complex system, and the correct implementation cannot be a linear, straightforward approach of “do these steps 1.2.3….and voila, you are agile”. It simply won’t work that way, and it is not. What worked in one context cannot be a recipe for another.

Forcing Control

Linear framework based approaches that try to force control on a complex system are bound to fail unless we adapt our implementation to be in tune with its complex reality. Coaches and leaders on these agile implementation journeys have to be aware that deep thought and deep experimentation are crucial for them to taste success.

Deep thought and deep experimentation

Choosing the popular frameworks like Scrum and SAFe as starting points is acceptable; however, we need to ponder deeply what elements from those frameworks are the right fit for our context. Choosing the correct elements to start is the first step and needs to go hand in hand with deep experimentation.

Unless we try a few things and use the feedback loop, which is at the core of agile thinking, how will we know what will work for us? There is no guarantee we will get the outcomes we seek because certain frameworks and practices worked well in the competitor across the street or because some analysts say 90% of the industry is following it.

Even after we have started, we need to constantly observe what’s working and what’s not and keep on adapting. The practices that bore fruit in the first year may not be the most optimal in our second year of transformation. So the thinking and experimentation process has to go on unabated.

The Wrap

Following a mad rush helps no one. Template approaches that have no learning embedded in them are why most Agile implementations go wrong. You expect a complex system to dance to your tune; it won’t unless you dance with it in its rhythm. Successful transformation is a live performance you and the system do together.

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