Project Management

Obstacles to Enterprise Agility

Michael James, CollabNet Certified Scrum Trainer
I often work with divisions of Fortune 500 companies that are struggling to become agile, starting with Scrum. While each organization is in a distinct business sector using different technology and management cultures, each one shares a common pathology, a kind of “giantism.” This article lists common obstacles to agility in large organizations and explores the possibility that the symptoms of giantism are entirely avoidable.
At first glance, an organization’s challenges will appear to be “too much to do” or “not enough resources” or “changing business climate.” Upon closer inspection, the root causes will turn out to be bad habits, unexamined reflexes and misconceptions.
A division of a well-known company cited as a 1997 success story by a famous Scrum pioneer came to Danube Technologies, Inc. for help in 2009 because market forces revealed it was less agile than its competitors. The Scrum initiative that started in 1997 apparently couldn’t withstand a decade of obstacles to large-scale agility. Sadly, most attempts to adopt Scrum in large organizations do not result in durable, ongoing transformation. Obstacles to Scrum adoption are usually obstacles to business success in general, and established organizations are usually reluctant to let go of them.
Obstacle #1: Naive Resource Management
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"All progress is based upon a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income."

- Samuel Butler