Does agile really work?

The first time I studied agile methods I was inundated with warnings that whilst the methods worked, stakeholders buy in was close to impossible. ‘No one will commit to a project without a defined deliverable’ they said. Everyone warned me how hard it was to implement the change.


As it turned out, the initial implementation in my organization was easy. No one cared how we worked, or what we called it. A team of us began to change processes, implementing artefacts and ceremonies, nearly all of which are still alive and kicking today. We begun recruiting people that had experience in Agile and all of a sudden a movement was underway. There is so much passion and advocacy within the agile community it really is quite easy to change the culture of the operational teams with some small adjustments. Those most affected by it, I mean really affected on a daily basis, seem most open to it. A meeting at 9am every day, where you have to stand up, no thanks! It shouldn’t have been an easy sell but it was.


So, end of story, an easy win right? Not quite. Those business stakeholders that didn’t care as processes began to change, started to take an interest. They found that the previously easy to persuade developers or product managers weren’t so easily persuadable. The back doors to sneaking in a new feature for a client began to close as the teams realized they were accountable for actual deliverables. The result was that ‘the business’ had to take note, and play ball by our rules.


Our troubles really emerged once we’d embedded agile. Suddenly we had to deal with ‘I cant tell my client that I don’t know exactly when this will be finished!’. Very quickly there was a lot of pressure to disrupt the teams that had demonstrated the highest levels of productivity in months, probably years.


Herein lies the problem with agile. Convincing the troops is easy, changing the process often generates little resistance. However high pressure, client driven goals will test the resolve of development managers. Revenue is king and a trump card that often undermines the cultural change that is needed to make agile work. Agile takes time, a long time for people to let go and trust the results. Often many years.


Do you have the patience to see it through and the strength to tackle the strongest objectors?