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AGILE: To be or not to be?

We’ve been managing projects for centuries, employing various methods and processes that change from time to time. These changes were made primarily to improve the process and outcome, making it more efficient and acceptable.

Agile — The hot approach, has also been there for more than two decades since the group of software experts came up with the Agile Manifesto. Since then, Agile has changed the entire workspace culture. Now, terms like “daily stand-ups”, “MVP” (Minimum Viable Product) and “Sprints” have become common language. Cross-functional teams and open workspaces have replaced offices with siloed departments and high cubicle walls.

However, as a nod to the well-known Shakespearean passages from Hamlet that were used as the article’s headline, let’s find out the less spoken challenges of AGILE (believe me it was tough to find ).

“Not To Be-[Agile]”

1. Rule of 3N: According to Mike Cohn, there are three primary areas to question. If answers to all three questions is “No” with a good degree of confidence, then the most appropriate response would be “No to Agile”. These areas are:

· Novelty — is this a new, or substantially unique, feature, project or product to the individual, team or organization?

· Complexity — is this feature, project or product complex?

· Urgency — is the need urgent?

So why think about “doing Agile” to deliver anything if it is in a properly known space, is not hard, and is not urgent? Not to mention, we are also fresh to Agile. The illustration below may assist in determining the ideal fit between the problem category and the delivery process.

fig 1: Complexity of problem and selection of right methodology

2. Agile Product Owner: Not to forget, we do need a captain to steer the ship, especially when we sailing into uncharted water. If we don’t have a fully dedicated, committed to cause and fully empowered product Owner, then STOP- There is no point in venturing into uncharted terrain until you have secured an expert mentor or guide.

3.Team: It goes without saying, it’s always the team, be it agile or any other approach. It ahs been found that most of the teams understands only what they have read about Agile, which may be wrong but certainly incomplete. It’s probably a lost cause if the company isn’t ready to spend money on agile infrastructure and training.

4. Power Game: Culturally, agile may threaten some team members, including those who feel they had obtained an informal leadership status under the previous process that disappeared under agile. This also give rise to resistance to change. If a team member is adamant on using only the terminology while carrying out his own methods, you might want to ease up on your demands for Agile.

5.Expensive Process: One of the deciding factors in the decision to migrate is cost. To incorporate agile methodologies, your teams have probably developed extensive documentation and tests focused on their existing methodologies. This documentation and accompanying team mindset would have to be reset in order to become agile.

6. Shorter delivery time is a kill: Agile believes in shorter delivery window. The sprints typically last one or two weeks, and they are followed by a product demo. This requires the team to break down the component parts of an application into manageable parts. If your application cannot easily be broken into chunks on which you can show completion or at least discernable progress over the course of a sprint, then significant parts of agile can’t be applied. You might then question whether the strategy is sound.

7.Water-Scrum Approach: If you team combines the Agile with any legacy methodology such as Waterfall, creating a ‘water-scrum’ approach, you may have the worst of both worlds. You might have combined the rigid structure of waterfall with agile terminologies. In worst case scenario, if this doesn’t work for you, it’s advisable you backoff from Agile until u understand it fully.

This all leaves us with a perplexing query:: Will Agile go away? The quick response is no. The underlying principles of Agile are sound. The fundamental beliefs of Agile were well known long before the Agile Manifesto was written in 2001. The world was already transitioning to an iterative method of problem solving. So, we can even say that Agile is not passing fad but it’s mandatory for survival. However, Teams must be able to identify when they are attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole and, when that occurs, look for alternatives to agile.

References: Picture

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