Now that Agile is mainstream and that most, if not all, organizations are implementing agile methods, I hear more and more voices raising concerns and warning about how poorly those organizations perform afterward. Most often cited causes are management obstruction, poor discipline in the development team, local mutations of scrum and so on.
They are wrong, they got the root cause wrong plain and simple.
I let that notion sinks in.
At that time, you are probably suspicious, maybe a bit angry. But at least I got your attention and I can get to the message:
It is not the organizations that fail Agile, it is Agile that fails organizations. I guess that most agilists are just pissed off now, but please, keep reading. I am a convinced XP practitioner, and I feel sorry for the mess I see around me, I am just trying to do my bit. The problem is that Agile is not yet enterprise friendly:
#1 Having happy customers is not the main goal of any commercial enterprise
It’s main goal is generating value for its shareholders. Of course, having happy customers is the proper approach for that.
#2 Money does not flow directly from the customer to the project team
The typical structure will be that it will be the customer’s management that will pay the project team management. That represents a bunch of people that were not involved in the project, and who did not care about agile at all, as they were not involved in the project.
#3 Agile methods emphasis local objectives
Due to fast iterations, decisions are taken locally to the project without any interference from top management.
All those attributes make of Agile a sure path to project success, as measured in customer satisfaction. And it also generates stress by keeping the rest of the organization, especially top management at a safe distance from the project. Therefore, the organisation reacts by trying to control Agile, making sure projects stay aligned with the enterprise strategy; or it remains hostile, or simply fails to provide adequate support. And it just kills any benefits.
The good news is that it can change. Agile can change to register itself in the enterprise strategy. Gojko Adzic‘s Impact Mapping is a promising tool to integrate strategy and increase the relevance of projects by ensuring a shared and clear goal is established early on. On the other side of gap, Jurgen Appelo works on what he calls Management 3.0 aims at bringing Agile in the management world, completely transforming how team must be managed.
So, please read the work of those great guys, and raise your awareness about enterprise topics if you want to help Agile succeed.
And in the meantime, stay disciplined and keep up the good work.