Top 3 Challenges Of Agile Methodology

Gimena Aguerreberry
June 30, 2021

When becoming Agile, many companies struggle. Agile was developed as a response to the many issues that the traditional waterfall methodology brought to both teams and project managers. But, although Agile aims to help teams deliver products faster and better, it does not come free of challenges, especially when first implementing it.

Agile software development projects are 16 percent more productive and 37 percent faster. Agile practices have a lot of benefits providing more alignment between departments, ease of adaptability of new measures, and quicker project turnovers.

Organizations are increasingly looking at Agile as their default approach for software delivery. This article will specify the top three challenges, blockers, and barriers when adopting agile.

1. Lack of Executive Commitment

By its very nature, an Agile transformation program affects large numbers of people in the organization. It's a change that needs to be managed effectively at all levels. One of the top priorities is to establish an effective working relationship between all those that have an interest in the successful outcome of the program. It sounds simple, but it's hard to achieve.

More often, at the executive level, the boundaries of communication and political dynamics result in a lack of involvement. Most executives get excited during the starting phase of such programs and initial pilots. However, their engagement levels drop only to monthly status meetings as the program proceeds beyond the pilot phase.

Executive behaviors and actions set the tone for the rest of the organization and hence executives have the responsibility to continue to act as a visionary for the program, engage with team members on a regular basis, and encourage the uncertainty so the agile teams stay committed and ultimately achieve the desired results for the business.

The biggest challenge is probably changing the whole company’s mindset and culture because there are always some that are resistant to change, especially such a big one as becoming agile.

An interesting statistic is that 61% of people who have made the switch to agile practices suggest that companies focus on their people and their company culture as a primary target for transition management.

Company leaders have to approach the transition proactively, show the benefits of an agile approach, and give sufficient training and resources for employees to understand not only how the shift will work, but also the reasons for transitioning. Leaders have to become agile and lead by example, by being transparent and seeking feedback and dialogue from their teams. They should also encourage daily synchronization of their teams so everyone’s on the same page.

2. People and Culture

While most organizations have multiple types of culture, there tends to be one culture-type — "the way things get done around here" — that influences the vast majority of people working in that organization. In organizations with rigid top-down matrix structures (hierarchies), agility is super hard. People are fearful and less driven with low morale. Upper management and bosses usually hold the key to the next actions, decisions, and innovations.

In such environments, fostering Agile requires more than training and coaching. Based on the organization's maturity in handling change, management techniques are required to introduce, induce and instill agile processes.

Agile practices are great for HR departments to recruit, evaluate, and promote employees. Agile is a good way of working because it means that the projects benefit from the right people stepping forward, and not outdated job descriptions or certain roles. Individuals will step forward because they feel confident and experienced in the project’s field, and they have collaboration practices with their colleagues who are just as passionate about the work.

These people benefit the project because they are more driven by an interesting project or challenge, working with a specific team or leader, as opposed to getting compensation or financial benefits. Agile companies should be updating their reward and performance programs to meet the needs of team-based development.

3. Lack of experience and unsuited training

If your team has no experience when it comes to Agile, implementing it can be a real pain. You can’t expect people who are used to work in a specific manner, to suddenly change their habits and become Agile experts without proper training.

But oftentimes, training is not enough and the company needs to be open to making some changes.

An agile team consists of a Scrum Master, often known as a team leader, whose job is to make sure the team knows and makes use of Agile principles, a product owner, and the rest of the team members. If the company does not have someone qualified to take on the Scrum Master position, then they might need to hire someone new for the job. This means that the HR department needs to know exactly what the qualities of a good Scrum Master are, in order to find someone suited for the job.

Conclusion - Top 3 Challenges Of Agile Methodology

An Agile transformation in any enterprise takes time and grit to execute. Organizations that are ready to embrace the changes are those who are taking steps to learn, unlearn, and re-learn new processes and an Agile way of working.

It is not an all-or-nothing equation. Agile organizations need to structure the transformation program in iterations with clear goals and KPIs that are aligned with the organization’s performance goals. Senior leaders are responsible for fostering a culture where mistakes are treated as teachings and employees are encouraged to innovate.

"Top 3 Challenges Of Agile Methodology" by Gimena Aguerreberry is licensed under CC BY SA. Source code examples are licensed under MIT.

Photo by Irfan Simsar.

Categorized under agile.

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