Million Dollar Question: Are you doing agile or being agile?

Agile transformation starts by individuals followed by teams and at last gets completed by organisation level. This is potentially a long-lasting process with a lot of turbulance. Majority of the people like status quo particularly people who are above a certain level of age. They are quite comfortable in their comfort zone and are not very willing to leave it. I think it’s completely understandable.

On the other hand, Agility is a totaly different mindset. It embraces early and frequent delivery in an iterative and incremental manner. It’s extremely critical that the agile transformation is well understood throughout the whole company not only in technology teams or in part of the organisation. If this is not the case, agile teams will have face many significant impediments and at the end may probably fail. Let’s imagine a case where the product marketing teams are not familiar with agile principles or Scrum framework and in the Sprint review meeting they’ve been made a demonstration of the iteration to be shipped. It’s quite likely that there is a struggle between the Marketing teams and PO regarding the deployment decision of the iteration. PO will very likely to push the deployment  so that customer feedback is received and following iterations are improved based on that while marketing guys don’t think the iteration is mature enough to present to customers and might damage the overall image of  the product. On such instances, it’s key that decisions that has been made by the PO should be respected by the whole organization. POs those are supposedly selected by the management team, should be empowered enough to have the right level of authority. Without sufficient sponsorship support, POs will be underpowered and lack authority. On those cases it is very likely that they feel overwhelmed and will struggle with the major decision makers.

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Likewise failing a Sprint may be questioned by the top management so that Scrum teams are getting discouraged to set challenging Sprint goals thus diverging from one of the 5 Scrum values: Courage. On some other cases, Scrum teams may have dependencies those would be blocking the teams to achieve their Sprint goals since they are still following old-school project management techniques and don’t share the same agile mindset.  Alternatively the development teams could get assignment from management directly without the notification of the PO. Sadly, this is quite a common case especially in organizations where the individuals and even teams are trying hard to being agile while the top management is driving things as they have been doing in the past.

In essence, agile transformation attemps are destined to fail eventually unless the overall organization and above all the top management go for it. Certainly this is a process and will not happen overnight. It will take time, maybe significant time. One day or another, organization who succeed to evolve to agile way will prevail whereas others who has been led by top-down approaches will probably share similiar ending like Kodak, Blackberry, Nokia etc.