Now that Agile is mainstream and that most, if not all, organisations are implementing agile methods, I am hearing more and more voices raising concerns and warning about how poorly those organisations 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.
Right now 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 organisations that fail Agile, it is Agile that fails organisations. I guess that most agile practitioners are just pissed off now, but please, keep reading. I am a convinced XP practitioner myself, 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 actual goal of any commercial enterprise
Its goal is usually 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 is some customers’ representative that will pay the project team management, most of the time some manager or some other part of the organisation. That represents a bunch of people that are not involved in the project, and who do not care about agile at all.
#3 Agile methods emphasis local objectives
Due to fast iterations, decisions are taken locally to the project without any interference from top management or other part of the structure.
This makes Agile a sure path to project success, as measured in customer satisfaction. But it also generates stress by keeping the rest of the organisation, 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 teams 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.