Jean Tabaka, an experienced agile/Scrum coach and trainer, has a good article on Sticky Minds called “11 Ways Agile Adoptions Fail.” I’ve seen most of them at the companies I’ve coached. A few of my favorites…
1. Ineffective use of the retrospective
Agile is all about inspecting and adapting. When I walk into an organization to help it evaluate its adoption of agile, my first question is, “When was the last time you ran a retrospective, and what did you do with the recommendations from that meeting?” Agile adoption hungers for the nutrients that real retrospection brings.
2. Inability to get everyone in the planning meetings
I’ve worked with several organizations who insist they are “agile” and yet still have a subset of team leads completing all the iteration plans: what will be delivered, what the estimates are for delivery, and who is assigned to meet these delivery commitments. Agile requires full-team collaboration on any commitment; without this level of commitment, a team stays stuck in the wear and tear of command-and-control decision making.
3. Failure to pay attention to the infrastructure required
A good “first order” practice of agile teams is to adopt the regular flow of functionality through immutable time boxes. But time boxes alone do not make an agile team. Real agile adopters constantly inspect and adapt their environment to support the elimination of waste and increase the continuous flow of value.
4. Bad ScrumMasters
I work primarily with Scrum teams, and the teams that struggle the most are those in which the ScrumMaster has a history of command-and-control project management, or a decision-oriented technical lead. Unless these ScrumMasters move to a facilitative, servant-leader mode of team guidance, agile adoption will be only a thin veneer over non-empowered, demoralized teams.
Also, I can’t mention Jean with plugging her book, Collaboration Explained, one of the best books I’ve found on how build a collaborative team and, especially, how to facilitate collaborative meetings in an agile environment.