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Why Agile projects fail and how to avoid it (forever)

It’s the first day of the project kickoff meeting for a new software application. Everyone is assembled in a large team room anxiously waiting for the meeting to begin. Other eager project participants are attending via video conference. A colorful 35-page deck with org charts, sprint cadence, flow diagrams, and fancy graphics is in everyone’s inbox. The title slide is statically displayed on the in-room screen and in the video conference meeting. It has all the ingredients for a perfect project, right?

How many times have you found yourself in the same scenario?

Fast forward 6 months and the beautifully depicted process flow chart seems to have gone askew. The 5 bulleted project goals are yet to be achieved or even mentioned again. And the meeting cadence that was outlined on page 12 never kept that schedule.

Company culture doesn’t align with agile principles

If the company culture doesn’t possess an agile mindset, projects will have an uphill battle achieving success. Companies that have rigid processes, or are subject to legal or compliance constraints are often slow to make changes or embrace new and emerging development philosophies. In order to overcome this, grassroots efforts need to emerge from the bottom up.

Be a driver of change in your organization.

No support from management team

This is closely related to the point above. An important component of company culture is the way in which the management team supports and drives change within the organization. Just as grassroots efforts need to emerge from the bottom up, it is equally important to define and support the implementation from the top down. When management supports a shift in business process, it is easier for those down the org chart to also adopt and support it. Without management support of agile, projects will never receive the proper funding and resources needed to be successful.

Ensure leadership understands the benefits agile projects can bring to an organization.

Waterfall practices remain in place

When the project manager emails the scrum master for a status report and a % complete, it is obvious the PM never attended agile training. (See below). An agile project will fail if management set a production implementation date, the business tries to write stories with solutions already decided or the delivery team is not given the opportunities to iterate, demo and receive constant feedback. Waterfall projects can be successful when

Make a decision to be waterfall or agile, and stick with that decision.

Lack of sufficient team agile training

Everyone in the organization involved in agile projects needs to attend training. This includes non-delivery team members (project managers) and executive leadership. Skimping on training is never a wise idea and will likely lead to failed projects. The training needs to be top-notch and reoccurring at least annually to reinforce the principles and ensure new team members are up to speed.

Secure the best training, include everyone and keep training.

Published in Agile

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