Agile in practice – Reflection on most common issues encountered with Agile implementation in large enterprises.
If you already had the opportunity to get at least an introduction training in Agile, you should know that the Agile framework has been designed so that it can be adapted to any business need in order to help enterprises in delivering innovative products and services faster, more predictably and with higher quality. And indeed, once you read it, it’s hard to argue against its mechanics in which every part – having a well-defined and specific role – fits perfectly together in a beautiful sense of logic.
Of course that is the feeling you will have on paper …
In practice, based on observations that we made in many different sectors, one of the biggest risks with Agile implementation remains the human factor. Here are some of the biggest and most common issues encountered in the day-to-day life in large Agile organizations:
Lack of explanation, reminder or preparation to ensure the real benefit of usual Agile Ceremonies for the Teams
An Agile organization can easily lead the Team members (especially the developers) to some degree of frustration (more or less high) in their work because – as actors “in the field” – they often view Agile Ceremonies as a waste of time.
It is the role of the Scrum Master (and the Product Owner in some cases) to facilitate these Ceremonies and ensure that the added value is present so that every Team member will get something useful from them. At this level of maturity, it is a non-stop job for the SM because it is not just about planning meetings. They have to constantly align themselves with a whole host of stakeholders and prepare good materials so that the Ceremonies are as effective as possible.
Unfortunately, we often notice that many SMs, POs and other roles within Agile organizations take on their role without appropriate training, concrete experience or real understanding of the objectives and challenges of their mission. Therefore, the Teams can miss the real purpose of these Ceremonies, which is a net loss for the maturity of their way of working.
Lack of communication and alignment on the overall objectives and strategy.
In a simplified version, we could say that the essence of Agile is the fragmentation of projects into smaller parts representing added value in their own right and deliverable in one iteration. However, this fragmentation can lead the Teams working on these small parts to lose the overall picture. Developers will rarely take the initiative to consult by themselves the strategy, objective or global roadmap justifying their contribution. This may lead to a loss of commitment, motivation and questioning of the work accomplished by the Teams who do no longer know for whom or what they are working for …
Communication on this aspect of the work must come from strategic roles to reinforce the Top-Down link and the feeling for the Teams that there is a goal to achieve.
The Continuous Improvement aspect of Teams is often underestimated.
One of the key values of the “Agile philosophy” is the evolution of Teams towards optimal maturity, leading them towards autonomy. The problem is that Team members often undergo continuous pressure on Delivery to the detriment of Continuous Improvement in their Team.
Therefore, the Retrospective ceremonies and the actions that should result from them, the T-Shaping, the organization of the testing, the documentation … are neglected on the long term.
In this situation, the PO and SM – with the support of the Management Team – have to allocate an appropriate part of the Iteration Planning to Continuous Improvement in order to let enough time to their Team to grow and improve their weaknesses.
It is very important for enterprises to realize what they lack concretely in the basics of their Agile implementation, especially when it impacts the Teams which are the real motor of the business. Our observation on the above issues lead us to consider that some drastic improvement could be easily done by investing some efforts on some key roles and behaviors.
 Stand-up, Backlog Refinement, Iteration Planning, Iteration Review, Retrospective
 Epic > Feature > User Story
 (Tribe) Product Owner, Management Team, Epic Owner…