Is our Agile Implementation on its way to Failure?

One of the central tenants of Agile is to keep it simple yet effective. Most of the literature and blog content available online generally keeps the first part in mind alright, but does not always have a point to make [like the many posts in this blog]. One of the best posts [in parts] that I read recently was a blog/ article by Jean Tabaka. The article was “11 ways Agile Adoptions Fail” and is available here Keeping these 11 points in mind, an evaluation of an Agile implementation in our organization is attempted [disclaimer – one persons viewpoint only]:

  1. Retrospectives – How often do you do retrospectives? Do you do these often enough? When was the last time you did it? This is a very interesting question. We can probably measure it with some sort of a process metric very easily too. However, the more important question was what followed this. What did you do with recommendations of retropsective? This is very important. Unfortunately, but for one team where a one-to-one meeting with the immediate lead is the norm, the other teams seem to be doing very badly on this score. Score: 3/10
  2. Everyone or select coterie – Do select few senior people dictate the project schedule, deliveries, estimates and milestones? It seems like we do pretty badly on this front. What it tells us is that either we do not trust the junior members in the team enough or we do not know of way to involve them in decision making. Does the team have committment from each of its member? This seems like a KRA of SCRUM Master, getting everyone motivated and charged every single day of the iteration. It does not seem like we are doing this well either. Score: 5/10
  3. Infrastructure – Has the team removed the obstacles every single iteration to come to a steady flow output of functionality every single iteration? This seems like something which flows from [1]. Has the team learnt skills like refactoring, unit testing, continuous code check in, pair programming, osmosis and build control? It seems like we have done this well enough, but probably not through the means that it should have been done. A group of highly motivated employees has brought these terms and ideas to attention and coaching has been done on these. The results are not totally satisfactory but we are doing well enough and consistently enough. Score: 6/10
  4. Bad SCRUM Masters – Is the team leader more oriented towards servant leadership or command and control? Unfortunately, we do not score that well on this parameter. We need more to be done to move away from this. The [2] and partly [3] highlight the symptoms/ causes of this behavior. Score: 2/10
  5. Product Owners – Are product owners not available or there are too many that do not agree with each other often? Although our product owners are generally available but the decision hierarchy is too big: a client working with our client [who has project managers managing working] who works with our project manager. The tree of information flow is big and the projects are stuck with varying expectations, feedback taking long to arrive and lots of change requests after projects are done. And because we do not have a lot of [1] and [2], we are stuck with same cycle over and over again. Score: 5/10
  6. Revert to form – Reverting back to old habits. Dictating from top which code to use rather than telling teams to analyze and consider using a particular piece of code is a recent example of command and control. The team which seemed pretty charged up to write a great piece of software is now just doing the mundane and needed. Similarly, not answering developers questions and simply saying “Do it, because I say it.” or “Believe me, this is the way it is most efficient.” Not investing consistently and heavily in trainings and refactoring means that not enough learning is being done at all levels in the organization. Wow! it seems we have a lot to do here. Score: 2/10
  7. Top Management Support – Does management provide rich resources and rich committment to support Agile? If the organization is not effectively going Agile, the case is probably not being pushed strongly enough by the management. However, we seem to be lucky here. The management supports and makes an effort to understand Agile. What is could probably do more is to wake people up from slumber that is [6] above. Score: 7/10
  8. Decision Making – Who makes the decisions? Are decisions handed over to the teams by the CEO/ CTO and to developers by the managers? In this scenario, motivation and committment and to an extend employee performance suffers. This is different from [7] above where the management support for initiatives is required. Management does not need to dictate but lead a path to discovery, understanding and appreciation of larger organization concerns. Score: 5/10
  9. Onsite Evangelist – Not having a full time coach and evangelist. We do not have one and it does seem like lot of [1] – [8] above would be taken care of if someone’s KRA was just to see that these do not occur. However, we do have two or three senior employees who play this role as part of their other roles but seems like it is not sufficient. Score: 2/10
  10. Learning – Not supporting learning, means not supporting agile. [1], [2], [8], [9] above would mean that we need to do a lot more to truly institutionalize learning. It is something we need to passionately believe in, measure and amplify at all levels. We have done well primarily because of efforts of few people in senior management but the results would be even better, if its done by efforts of even more people. Score: 5/10
  11. Honesty – Does management support brutal honesty and transparency and encourage teams to achieve the same? What would we say to a manager who comes and says that this was a mistake and the project would be done in twice the estimates if everyone filled time sheets? Would the developers be willing to come and say, we lack these skills, we need trainings for these? Would senior management be willing to say, yes we violated terms of agile and are sorry for the same? It seems like we will get a positive response to some and not so positive to others. Hence, some work to be done here. Score: 5/10

The total score is 4.3/10 which does not seem like something flattering.

What should be the next steps that make this score go up?

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