Posted by: kerrywills | November 16, 2018

Agile should not be an excuse


The company that I work for is moving to a scaled agile model which has certainly had growing pains. And while I do understand the agile principles and am helping to define the model we will use, I feel like sometimes people use “agile” as an excuse to not have fundamental tenants of success. The top three that come to mind are below…

  1. Still need a vision – Agility is about iterating and prioritizing, but it has to be in the context of an overall vision. Without that, the team will constantly be re-prioritizing and spinning and nothing will get accomplished. Getting nowhere quickly because of agile does not sound right, and so a vision is critical.
  2. Still need leadership – Once the vision is clear, leaders need to drive that vision and champion it throughout the organization. While agile promotes teams and delegated work, leadership is still needed to “connect the dots”, provide direction and remove impediments. I do not believe that large corporations can ever move to fully federated models where teams just “do stuff” and naturally come together, collaborate and understand interdependencies.
  3. Still need PM competencies – While there are no formal project management roles in agile, there is clearly a need for the competencies which make someone a successful PM. There is still the need for facilitation, negotiation, communication, planning, escalations and other critical PM competencies. There is also a need for managing interdependencies and complexities of the work.

Without these three things I see companies having significant challenges which can’t really be justified under the header of “that is an agile approach to fail and learn.” Some reading this may view me as “traditional” and not understanding agile and maybe that is true. Or maybe my experience and instincts recognize that it needs to be a mixed model with agile principles as well as the three critical concepts above. In any case, I am curious of what others think.


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