Are Prejudices Stopping your Agile Efforts?

Adopting new software development approaches like Agile and Scrum is always a challenge. There is a natural tendency for part of an organization to resist changing and some prejudices exist against Agile, mainly due to a lack of knowledge. This article discusses these misconceptions and provides some tips on how to overcome these prejudices to get Agile adoption on track in your organization.

Author: Kevin Dunne, QASymphony, http://www.qasymphony.com/

Adopting Agile may be the next big thing for your team, but adopting new practices always presents challenges for any organization. We all know that the failure rate for traditional approaches, like waterfall, is high. But did you know that the failure rate for Agile projects is still often unacceptably high?

According to Version One’s 8th Annual State of Agile Survey, 85% of respondents encountered an Agile project that failed. If you are gearing up to begin your Agile journey – or if you already are on the train, how can you make sure you are not one of those teams that fails, in spite of the increased communication and continuous improvement embedded in Agile? The Agile Manifesto with its 12 principles is simple. That same simplicity can lead to overgeneralizations and assumptions that don’t reflect the true Agile mindset and result in projects that miss out on success.

What might hold you back from Agile success?

People in and around your development teams may have preconceived ideas about Agile – and some of them may be negative. Misconceptions around Agile can predispose a new project to failure and prevent newly formed Agile teams from succeeding.

Are Prejudices Stopping your Agile Efforts?

Every organization has a unique culture and there is often a general resistance to change that has to be overcome before any successful transformation. Listen for potential negative assumptions, prejudices and misconceptions like the ones outlined below; addressing them at the start can get your project moving on the right path.

Prejudice #1: Agile is just a buzzword

Agile is about transforming how you deliver product. In order to reap the benefits of Agile you really need to empower developers and testers. They need to be trained in these new techniques and encouraged to contribute and innovate to improve efficiency.

Addressing potential negative assumptions at the start can get your project moving on the right path and prevent potential conflict down the road.

Prejudice #2: Agile doesn’t fit regulated industries

Some industries are heavily regulated and there can be concerns about the fluid nature of Agile. How do you document everything that’s required by your regulatory body without making Agile processes grind to a halt?

Prejudice #3: We don’t want to release every week

Agile encourages a fast release cycle, because the faster you get features into the hands of end users, the faster you can get feedback about what works and what doesn’t, enabling you to focus your efforts where the most value will be realized. But there is no set minimum time frame for a sprint, and much of the art of implementing Agile in your organization is finding a sprint time box that allows for an adequate balance of early end user feedback while delivering meaningful progress in each sprint.

Prejudice #4: Agile doesn’t work for distributed teams

With waterfall, it is easy to throw something over the fence to another team, and this can work well with offshore test teams, but Agile demands communication, preferably face-to-face. With today’s growing move towards cloud collaboration tools, it is possible to pull off Agile in a distributed environment, with the right leaders and team culture.

How to tackle prejudices

We’ve looked at some commonly raised issues; now let’s discuss how to deal with them.

Tip #1: Don’t bang a square peg in a round hole

Sometimes there will be elements of Agile that don’t fit well with your existing systems or practices. Agile argues for the benefit in frequent fast releases, but it is still perfectly possible to stick to a longer release schedule, packaging together multiple builds, instead of releasing after every sprint. Agile may not prize documentation as highly, but if you need detailed records you can stipulate that. Many elements of more traditional development methodologies are not mutually exclusive, and applying the most Agile tenets you can is better than applying none at all.

Tip #2: Don’t dwell on the name

It can also be the case that the terminology itself is a turn-off for people. Pick and choose what works for your project and try to frame it in terms that your staff will recognize. You can often present the same practices in a different way and get a much better response.

Tip #3: Focus your efforts and show success early

When you have people buy in to the process and they can envision success, empower those people to evangelize for you. You want the people with the right skills and enthusiasm to steer the project forward. You should also measure its efficacy from day one, that way you can illustrate the benefits clearly.

Tip #4: Make sure your door is always open

It is not enough to entreat people to communicate; you may need to push them to offer regular feedback. In the modern age of video calls and cloud services this barrier is very easy to overcome. Regular group meetings, for both business and team building, are absolutely vital. Communication should not be routed through a middleman, so encourage people to discuss relevant problems with relevant people.

Tip #5: The customer is always right

The earlier you establish a user feedback loop, the faster Agile will start to work. Hearing the thoughts of the end user on what has been produced is the most effective way to get your staff pulling in the same direction and working hard. There’s no argument over opinions when you have the voice of the customer at hand. It can also boost morale and pride, and ultimately it will improve your product.

About the Author

Kevin Dunne is a product specialist for QASymphony, a leading provider of test management platforms for Agile development teams. He was previously a Business Technology Analyst for Deloitte in Atlanta.

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