Limitations of Agile Software DevelopmentBruno Collet, MBA, Independent Project Manager & Auditor 2www.brunocollet.com
1. A team of stars
Agile has been designed by experienced, smart, and high-achieving people. A friendwisely pointed out to me recently that they naturally designed agile for people just likethem: stars. Not everybody's a Martin Fowler, a Ron Jeffries, or a Jeff Sutherland. Youcould have given them any project, with waterfall method or even no method at all, andthey would probably have succeeded. Indeed, not every group can be motivated,experienced, and skilled enough to self-organize into an efficient team, come up withlightweight processes, and collaborate seamlessly to achieve that great agile teamwork.Take average individuals in you workplace and imagine what would be the outcome ifyou trusted them to self-organize and to choose the best way (at micro-level) to reachthe desired result, without any close supervision. You might be quite disappointed. I'mnot saying that individuals are not qualified, I simply emphasize that it takes more thanthe average Joe to achieve agility.Does your team have the agile potential?Do
have the agile potential?Do you have the raw individuals to form an agile team in your organization?Be honest.If you answered "no" to some of these questions, it doesn't mean that you cannotbecome agile. It means that there might be some intermediate steps to take beforegetting there. In my opinion, these steps typically involve adapting the work culture byprogressively empowering teams and individuals, training, and hiring the right people.
2. Fit with organizational culture
I have worked with several different organizations. In one of them, directors can be 30years old with blue hair, job definitions were broad, and processes were definedindependently by each team. In another one, respecting the chain of command and jobresponsibility were keys to survival, and it took me a couple of days to go though thecompany's policy manual. This illustrates two diametrically opposed cultures. Which onedo you think is more suitable to implement an agile team?Enabling agile behavior requires a great dose of individual and team freedom. Ittranslates into cross-functional, constantly adapting work, and switching roles asneeded. It also entails adjusting processes continuously to reflect the current situation.More than anything, it means that
processes are secondary to people
.As you can imagine, companies that traditionally emphasize narrow responsibilities,policies, processes, and one-size-fits-all methodologies, are particularly at odds withagility. These characteristics form the organizational culture, which pervasivelyinfluences all work and behavior throughout the organization. Unfortunately manycompanies still apply these industrial-era principles. To make things worse, changing theculture might be the one most difficult thing to do for an organization (after all, the culture
the people who are part of the organization).