Why can Agile Project Management Fail?

leap-300x198The switch to Agile project management can be exciting at first. There seems to be a lot of collaboration going on since team members are all learning new terminology and practices together. However, things can start getting rocky a few weeks or months into the transition. Here are some of the most common reasons Agile fails.

The Team Doesn’t Understand the Basics

Agile serves as a foundation for many different methods or frameworks of software development. If the team has no understanding of Agile principles, they can easily become confused when they are asked to switch to Scrum, Behavior-Driven Development, or Extreme Programming at the same time.

Tip: When a transition occurs too quickly, team members may feel overwhelmed and begin to resist change. Start with Agile project management and create an implementation plan to phase in other best practices over time.

Agile Is Confused with Unified Process

Unified Process (UP) is a flexible and iterative version of traditional Waterfall development. However, it is still a sequential process at its core. Much of the requirement specification and design is done up front, and more of the coding and testing is done toward the end of the development lifecycle. This approach can feel more comfortable to organizations that are used to a traditional approach.

Tip: Check to make sure Agile stays Agile. If functional pieces of software are being delivered with every iterative cycle, the process is Agile. If not, the process is probably reverting to a more linear development method.

The Project Manager Is Overburdened

Agile is a simple concept, but that doesn’t mean it is easy to put into practice. It isn’t reasonable to expect a project manager to get certified in Agile and then return to implement what they just learned in a classroom. Agile will require a deep organizational change and impact the way every person on the development team does their job. It takes substantial skill to get this transition right–and that expertise comes from real-world experience.

Tip: Ultimately, responsibility for successful change lies within the organization. However, hiring an “Agile transition coach” can be a smart move. The coach can speak knowledgeably to stakeholders, encourage team members, and help the project manager navigate potential pitfalls.

Agile Was the Wrong Choice

Sometimes, the reason Agile project management doesn’t work is because it should never have been implemented in the first place. This methodology is not well suited to very complex projects or those that involve large, geographically distributed teams. Agile also won’t work when the customer has very strict compliance needs and wants all requirements and project activities detailed in advance. Finally, organizations that have a very rigid internal structure may simply be unable to achieve enough executive buy-in to move to Agile.

Tip: If it becomes apparent that Agile isn’t working, determine if it’s the organization, the team, or the client standing in the way. It may be possible to reap the benefits of Agile for smaller initiatives while sticking with a more traditional approach for other projects.

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