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6 Challenges to agile adoption – and how to overcome them

Successfully integrating agile ways of working always requires effort beyond the development team itself – and while all organizations are different, the challenges they face when adopting one approach to real agility are often the same. Here are seven of the most common obstacles we encounter on scrum implementation, along with some thoughts on how to overcome them.

1) Lack of wider buy-in around agile

Successful agile deployment requires full awareness and support not only from the organization at the forefront of development. In many cases, only people outside the team can drive progress by removing obstacles in a timely manner. Everyone involved also needs to understand the user-centered mindset that agility requires for the success of the team’s work. Equal Experts, we want to work with everyone involved in managing and delivering digital services, not just the delivery team. This is an important step to help the entire organization understand and support the priorities of new agile programs.

2) Resistance from people who feel they don’t need to change

When an organization moves to do things in a new way, it can be a natural reaction of people who are accustomed to the old way to resist change. Are they already not doing their job well?  Adopting agile practices can change the nature of some roles, especially line management and traditional project management. People in these areas are accustomed to making decisions and directing work, but agility requires a more democratic process involving all team members. Without this transparent communication, it can be an obstacle to agile recruitment and project deliverables. When properly incorporated, they can be a positive factor in change.  As with the large, close collaboration across the delivery team shifts accountability from traditional stakeholders. To overcome this, it is important to emphasize that comprehensive business goals cannot be achieved without cross-departmental. For successful agility, you must leave behind top-down management practices. That’s why Associates work directly with people who are adopting new approaches to pass on their experience.

3) Lack of open communication

Transparency is important for effective teamwork that underpins agile development. Without it, the problem isn’t being addressed when it should be (as soon as someone notices it!).  As mentioned earlier, in addition to aligning individual incentives for the entire organization, it is important to strengthen the team as a unit. If individuals do not share information, they will not get anything.  Again, the best way to show that is to do something. By having experienced agile practitioners on the delivery team, newcomers are trained in agile work styles and learn with more experienced teammates.

4) Being too risk-averse

A “test and learning” approach to development (where the team builds a product through repeated iterations) is the basis of agility. To be successful, organizations must run the risk that not everything a team does will reach production.  This is not about explaining the failure or dealing with a valuable development budget. Bringing uncertain benefits to idea research and prototyping with a limited controlled amount of money is well-spent money. The insights gained can be used to spin or kill bad ideas before exceeding the committed “alpha” budget.

5) Attempting to preserve legacy mechanisms of control

True acceptance of agile work means abandoning the old-fashioned top-down management pitfalls.   The best way to break these old habits is to focus on some indicators that actually show the value actually provided. Managers also need to prioritize personal involvement over management over-reporting in order to be part of the team.

6) Attempting to scale before the core culture is established

Team culture is so important to successfully adopt agile work that it doesn’t make sense to try to establish it more broadly until you can show that you’re already doing well.  However, thriving agile culture can grow through the initial involvement of experienced individuals using knowledge-based training models. It is important to accept that this can take a long time and can lead to different approaches to different types of problems, but it is possible. Our own involvement in HMRC shows that this is the case.

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