Project Management

Most Agile Transformations Will Fail

Anthony is an enterprise agile Coach with Vitality Chicago, Inc. He has over 30 years of experience delivering large-scale business programs and IT projects. He specializes in helping organizations effectively apply Lean and agile principles and the Scrum framework to gain true business agility. He teaches a wide range of agile and Scrum training courses as well as the cultural elements that are necessary for agile to succeed. Anthony is the author of numerous blog posts and articles and two books: Agile Project Management and Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers. He has an undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and an MBA from Loyola University of Maryland.

The sad reality is that though well-intentioned, most agile transformations tend to fail. By fail I mean they are cancelled, reversed or fall short of delivering the desired results.

To be clear, agile transformation success is different than agile project success. Success rates for agile tend to be significantly higher than those for traditional approaches, and there are plenty of data points to support that. Unfortunately, a lot less data is available on agile transformation success.

I do find that the majority of attendees to my training classes belong to organizations that have attempted some type of transformation. Most of them report limited success, and in many cases, complete reversal of the agile initiatives. Agile transformations are major programs of change and represent risk. Let’s explore some of the reasons that these transformations tend to fail, based on my observations of various transformations I have seen.

1. Agile transformations take too long. The primary reason that I believe agile transformations fail is that they take a long time. As humans, our expectations for things have dramatically changed over the last five to10 years. Today we expect things immediately. Amazon will now deliver almost anything, including groceries, to my home in two hours or less. We have become conditioned to near-instant satisfaction, and we are losing the ability …

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