Sunday, April 12, 2015

What's the biggest Weakness with Agile?

To be successful, the *entire* organization *must* be agile.
Agile as a collection of benevolent ideas, concepts that are meant to inspire so it really doesn't have any weaknesses as such. Any perceived weakness is largely due to the implementer wrapping their processes around the Agile Manifesto and Principles, or some culture conflict that is often weighted toward the company's existing culture. A few perceived weakness with Agile includes:

Agile doesn't try and be anything prescriptive. The biggest 'weakness' of Agile, if you call it that, is that it is a framework and is not prescriptive. This implies that you need experience in order to adapt to it.  Agile is a framework not a prescriptive methodology. This is both its strength and its weakness. You are fit to do as you wish within this framework, and it's very easy to grab hold of enough rope to hang yourself. Which some see as a weakness. It's too easy for people to say they are being agile when they are not. It tends to ignore the business and only cover the software development department. It's too easy to fall into zealotry rather than understanding. Agile is a collection of quite diverse ideas and concepts, so it's difficult to show specific weaknesses. The weaknesses occur through people's misconception and misperception of what they can do or not do when they begin to adopt some of these Agile principles. "It's always a people problem."

One potential weakness is that agile assumes competence and knowledge: a team of novices running agile is liable to run into problems (although frameworks like Scrum can help to bridge the gap). Another potential weakness is the risk of disconnects between teams naïvely delivering stories without considering business value. Agile's double edged sword is that it requires a self forming team of motivated individuals. When you have that motivated team, it's awesome, when you don't you can quickly crash and burn before you have time to turn the team around. The problems happen when people string together random elements of agile without proper thought as to how they should connect and interact, it's always an interface problem. The biggest weakness is that agile is a process for grown ups. It requires a deep understanding, and a huge amount of self discipline, and a mindset that includes constant learning and striving for excellence and a certain enthusiasm for social interaction.

To be successful, the *entire* organization *must* be agile. Many organizations are incapable of doing that. Popularly, Agile seems to be "do whatever feels right." That may hold for the smallish per iteration analysis and construction activities. But, for the big picture, up front analysis of full cycle Agile, scale agile best practices to the organizational level are all important. Complex problems require simple, straight forward approaches. It causes big problem when breaking Agile principle by trying to adopt agile in a part of the organization without taking care for the other parts of the non-agile organization (sub-optimization). Organizations has to not only doAgile, but also being Agile.

Will Agile’s greatest weakness become its source of strength, getting buy-in for the Agile Principles and getting buy-in for how the company's culture can support these principles will be a huge first step. Apply it as values and principles based framework, not just a specific project management methodology, the strength of Agile is its agility with three “I”s: Interaction, Iteration and Improvement.  


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