“Agile just doesn’t work for us”

I bet I grabbed your attention with that title.  Before you proceed on, please be warned that this post is definitely more of a rant.  But, if you can’t occasionally rant on your own blog, then what’s it good for anyhow?

To those that say “Agile just doesn’t work for us”, I say bullshit!  For some reason, some people think their company / organization / product is so different from the rest of the world that a process like Agile will not work for them.  When it comes to work, we are all more alike than different.  Those same people tend to look for every opportunity to blame any issue on Agile.    The team didn’t get a user story done … “Agile just doesn’t work for us”.  A stakeholder made a late change … “Agile just doesn’t work for us”.  I can’t make it to the stand-up on time … “Agile just doesn’t work for us”.  We had a bad retrospective … “Agile just doesn’t work for us”.  We deployed a bug to production … “Agile just doesn’t work for us”.  It rained today … “Agile just isn’t working for us”.  You get the point, I’m sure.

Now, don’t get me wrong … I totally get statements like “This isn’t Agile” or “We aren’t being Agile”; that, I can deal with.  Just don’t make rash statements that insinuate that the process is to blame for what is a problem that would / may exist regardless of Agile.  In other words, don’t hate the process, hate the weaknesses in ourselves that the process exacerbates … whatever it may be, lack of discipline, poor collaboration, no accountability, bad leadership, etc.

Dig deeper beyond the rash statement and you will find that often it is not the process that doesn’t work for us, but rather we don’t work for the process.  When I hear “Agile just doesn’t work for us”, I like to probe further with questions like …

  • What specifically do you think is not working about Agile?
  • What have you done to try to solve the problem?
  • Would this / did this / could this problem exist under any other process?

So, to all those that are quick to say “Agile just doesn’t work for us”, don’t be a hater.  Look within your own locus of control (never thought I’d have the opportunity to use that phrase beyond college) before you jump to judgement about a process that has worked successfully for many diverse companies all over the world for many years.

About Stephanie Davis

Stephanie is now VP of Product Excellence at LeadingAgile focused on the growth, development, and delivery of some amazing agile products.  Recently, she spent the past two years as Executive Director - Enterprise Agility Office at Catalina leading another top-to-bottom, inside-out agile transformation.  Prior to that, Stephanie was Senior Director of Enterprise Agility at Valpak. She was with Valpak for 13 years, most of which were focused on leading their agile transformation to what became a world renowned success story published in case studies and demonstrated to over 50 different companies through the years via agile tours.  Prior to Valpak, Stephanie held past positions in the project management domain with AT&T and IBM. Stephanie's academic credentials include a BS in Marketing from the University of South Florida and an MBA in International Business from the University of Bristol in England. She also maintains the Project Management Professional (PMP), Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP), and Certified Scrum Master (CSM) credentials. Stephanie is big on tech community involvement!  Most recently, she served as an elected board member to the Agile Alliance, a non-profit organization with global membership, committed to advancing agile development values, principles, and practices. In addition, she serves her local community as an organizer for Tampa Bay Agile, the largest and most active tech Meetup in the area, and the annual Agile Open Florida event. In 2016, Stephanie was awarded Tampa Bay Tech’s Technology Leader of the Year and the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s BusinessWoman of the Year (Tech) and Emerging Technology Leader of the Year. View all posts by Stephanie Davis

4 responses to ““Agile just doesn’t work for us”

  • Phalguna Ramaraju

    You said it right & nice. If one wants Agile work, it works!

  • Derek Huether

    “Agile just doesn’t work for us” because clearly there is some kind of misalignment of goals.

    Does Agile not work for you because your people are more empowered versus being controlled…and that is a bad thing?
    Does Agile not work for you because your people are more focused on delivering something of value versus trying to keep busy…and that is a bad thing?

    Things are never that overly-simplistic. I get that. I’m actually venting a little bit right now as well.

    I would certainly want to know what THEY thought Agile would do for them. Maybe it’s just not the silver bullet they were looking for.

    If people want to be a haters, I am always curious about what way of doing things DID work in the past. Clearly SOMETHING has worked for them at some time. Perhaps that would bring some light to why “Agile just doesn’t work for us”.

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