The 5 prevailing Agile pitfalls that prevent true adoption

To successfully implement Agile and maintain its momentum, teams must often overcome a predictable series of both technical and cultural adoption challenges.

Despite the widespread admiration and acceptance Agile enjoys across the software industry, many organizations still fail to truly implement the associated practices. Although this is sometimes attributable to technical challenges, the hurdles of adoption are commonly related to collaboration, project supervision and other important aspects of organizational culture.

From architectural issues to communication breakdowns, here is a rundown of five Agile pitfalls teams often fall into as well as guidance to avoid them.

1. Inflexible architectures

Agility demands adaptive software architecture designs that are scalable, flexible and able to evolve over time while simultaneously supporting end-user needs. However, when code is piled on top of previous code without established addition and update processes, those numerous layers of unmanaged code could create an inflexible design pattern that makes it difficult to amend in any significant way.

For long-term sustainability, have a formal architectural model in place as part of your Agile program. Focus on simplicity, loose coupling and high cohesion, as these are all things that go a long way towards designing an architecture that's adaptable enough to meet Agile standards.

2. Outdated development tools

While Agile is about much more than tooling decisions, these decisions still play an integral role in Agile development. Unfortunately, many organizations still depend on tools that were only created to accommodate legacy Waterfall practices, such as older versions of Jira and Jenkins.

Agile tools should appeal to line-of-business users and manage Agile projects efficiently, handling such tasks as scheduling, management, reporting and others. If it doesn't provide the features or support needed for Agile, it's probably not an ideal tooling choice.

3. Inconsistent strategies across distributed teams

Agile has generally proven easier to implement in small and medium-sized organizations but has gained ground within large-scale enterprise scenarios as well. Managing large, multi-team projects in multiple locations with an Agile approach can be challenging.

In distributed Agile teams, it's important that management foster a culture of teamwork and utilize tools that facilitate and bolster communication and collaboration between team members. If teams aren't physically connected, then the tools they use need to offset this geographic distance. Additionally, project management tools should provide clear visibility into the project's status that all team members can easily view.

4. Overlooking cultural change

Organizations often make a fundamental mistake in Agile adoption: a failure to consider its impact on culture and change management. For starters, team leads need to dismantle any existing silo mindset to implement an Agile approach. This means curbing any style of command-and-control culture that persists.

An Agile culture gap refers to any cultural differences that impede teamwork and how team members interact. For instance, one step is to recognize cultural differences in collocated and distant teams to promote team collaboration. Take advantage of resources such as the culture map, Culture Design Canvas, Team Canvas and working agreements to overcome cultural impediments.

Effective communication and team cooperation is the bedrock of effective Agile.

5. A lack of effective communication

Effective communication and team cooperation is the bedrock of effective Agile. Agile culture depends on open and honest feedback from both team members and managers. If failure happens, learning from that failure and growing as a team is difficult without an open discussion about what went wrong and what everyone needs from each other.

To improve collaboration, Agile teams must also set transparent and clearly defined objectives around each project from the outset. Collaboration is about respecting the unique aspects of individual team members as well as assessing work performance in terms of outcomes rather than timesheets and lists of individual contributions.

To be successful, development teams must encourage consensus-driven decision-making, self-managed cross-functional teams, and effective leadership. To ensure that success continues, cultivate a culture of information sharing that keeps team members in the loop and continuously presents opportunities to learn.

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