Why is Agile adoption fraught with danger?
Or more specifically, why does Agile seem to get a poor name in the larger corporations?
Well I have been privy to a number of Agile methodology proposal forms, for the large bank where I am currently contracted. These are documents which have been produced by large corporations and well known Agile specialists outlining a plan to introduce either Agile itself or a more Agile way of working.
The proposers themselves have been given a significant amount of time to size up the business needs, and deliver their plan of how to introduce Agile.
Interestingly I read something which was based around the values of the “Agile Manifesto” in only about half of these proposals. Not one of them mentions the obvious flaw in the concept of waterfall and how that could be used to persuade people to change; how it was used as an example of an anti-pattern yet people liked the diagram, it made sense so they implemented it! (have a read here: http://www.interaction-design.org/references/authors/winston_w__royce.html)
What I found most interesting was not proposals that looked like they could work, but in fact the ones that were not really based on the “Agile values” at all! For me it was a great insight into peoples’ concept of Agile, when really they had no idea. The documentation from a distance looked vaguely Agile, seemed to use the right words, full of catch phrases and truisms. (How many people have heard “Evolution not Revolution”?). But probing a bit deeper and looking at their statements in context you can clearly see its all middle management tripe. Bringing in a large number of governing boards and committees to somehow measure process with heavyweight monitoring. Sound familiar?
Sometimes they have tricky catchphrases that sound good, but the process seems to strive to fit around making the word work rather than delivering working software and increasing visibility to the stakeholders. In fact it seemed that a management consultancy had just taken a cut and paste approach in some places and also did a find and replace on key words such as replacing “waterfall” with “agile”, “governance” with “monitoring” etc..
What is also an obvious giveaway is when that stop focusing on the individual and talk about them as resources. e.g. Our systems processed over 1500 resources last year…. as opposed to – last year alone we educated over 1500 people in the principles, values and behaviours of Agile.
Is it any surprise that some companies fail to find Agile success when there are so many “wolves in sheep’s clothing” out there? Instead they find something that looks like Agile, and is pretty dead, they strive with it, and eventually reject it. When the real deal comes along bearing Agile slogans and promises they offhandedly reject it. “We’ve tried Agile before and it didn’t work” – they say.
Sounds a bit like an inoculum to me. I wonder how many corporations are out there, inoculated against “Agile”.