“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 Davis is Senior Director of Enterprise Agility & Digital Product Leadership at Cox Target Media. In this role, Stephanie champions agility across the enterprise, leads the Agile PMO, and manages the CTM portfolio while also overseeing the Digital Product Leadership team. Stephanie leads the team of Agile Project Leaders in the roles of ScrumMaster, Kanban Lead, and/or Agile Project Manager as well as overseeing the IT Business Analysts. Stephanie is a career project leader with over 16 years in the field, including past positions with AT&T Business and IBM Global Services, and has maintained the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification since early in her career. She also maintains the PMI-Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) and Certified Scrum Master (CSM) credentials. Her academic credentials include a BS in Marketing and an MBA in International Business. Stephanie serves and supports Agile within her community and beyond as organizer for the Tampa Bay Agile Meetup and the Agile Open Florida. Most recently, Stephanie has been elected to the Agile Alliance board for the 2015 to 2017 term. 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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