The Top 5 Deterents to Agile

The beauty of Agile is the fact that its just about a few principles. – which we also¬†summarized in a few words. Everything else is under your control. And¬†on your way from classic waterfall practices¬†to adopting those principles, you are likely to encounter some serious blockers. I’m attempting to list out the¬†top 5 along with the Agile principles that they block.

1. Large teams

Blocks: Velocity, Working together

Scales of Agile (Courtesy: ebizq.net)
Scales of Agile (Courtesy: ebizq.net)

It is uncommon to have a cross-functional team of teams with 30-50 folks working on the same product. While the Agile deliverable is a few days of work, large teams working on a single release will generate a huge deliverable that is more coupled, has wider impact and demands extensive testing.

2. Fixed-scope planning

Blocks: Working software, Simplicity, Accepting change

Courtesy: 352inc.com

Teams that have¬†a fixed-scope mental¬†block start off by committing a scope for the next release,¬†and then estimate a¬†future release date.¬†Since estimates are often incorrect, the¬†release is delayed to deliver the committed scope – which is just not Agile. Forget about changing requirements, folks won’t even drop¬†a few¬†stories or acceptance criteria at the very end, to meet the committed date (time-box) – at the cost of breaking the promise of a few features. Even worse, that you won’t see anything working until the release is out.

3. Test-automation

Blocks: Environment, Customer Satisfaction

Courtesy: testdroid.com
Courtesy: testdroid.com

I don’t think this point needs any elaboration. Haven’t we all been part of releases where the QA effort exceeds¬†Development just because a feature touches¬†multiple modules? Dependency highlighting tools can help, but a comprehensive test suite (first for the services, then for the UI) can really speed up releases.

4. Team maturity, mindset & leader’s trust

Blocks: Motivated individuals, Self-organization, Reflection

Agile is a lot about the mindset. It demands a mature, responsible team that can be trusted to self-organize. The organization also needs to trust the team and in return provide an environment conducive to learning & improvising all the time. If the SCRUM Reflection ceremony turns in to a court marshal,  folks are never going to be motivated to work, let alone achieve excellence.

5. Tools

Blocks: Excellence

Courtesy: hubspot.net
Courtesy: hubspot.net

This is truly debatable. I’ve contested, but could not convince. Everyone agrees that¬†you can’t¬†manage user stories in a¬†TXT file, code through versioned folders, or¬†test manually. Yet, we fail to accept the importance of tools to being Agile. I do not have preference for any, but I feel there has to be some lean Agile stack that lets smaller teams easily fork & merge code, mark¬†acceptance criteria done (than whole stories) and validate a build in seconds.

Open for discussion.