Project Management

What I’ve Learned from My Failed, Curtailed & Lost Agile Adoptions

From the Manifesting Business Agility Blog
This blog concerns itself with organizations moving to business agility—the quick realization of value predictably and sustainably, and with high quality. It includes all aspects of this—from the business stakeholders through ops and support. Topics will be far-reaching but will mostly discuss FLEX, Flow, Lean-Thinking, Lean-Management, Theory of Constraints, Systems Thinking, Test-First and Agile.

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Fortunately, I haven’t had too many of these. I thought it’d be useful to mention what I learned from them.

Failure: Created viable plan for client but management would not follow through - was 8th in long line of failure

What I learned: Don’t assume what managers tellme is truth. Said wanted to improve but truth was wanted low risk in adoption.


Curtailed: Followed SAFe roles by the book, but client didn’t like roles & stopped engagement because of my rigidity on roles

What I learned: Must adjust approaches to culture and desired career paths


Almost lost: Doing team-agility workshop & provided lean-thinking to explain why Scrum works. Halfway through I was warned if I didn’t just tell them what to do they would not come back the next day.

What I learned: Some people just want to be told what to do.


Lost – Large company wanted Scrum training. I knew a modified version would work better and made that very clear.

What I learned: When upper management says “adopt Scrum” convincing mid-management of a better approach is a no-win situation since they have to confront management on better plan.


Bottom Line: You must adjust what you do to the client’s domain, attitude and culture in order to be effective.

Posted on: August 09, 2020 06:54 PM | Permalink

Comments (9)

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Thanks for sharing

Great read. Super bashing of the middle management as the show stoppers. Definitely worth fighting from the inside!

Ciprian I am surprised at your conclusion I was bashing management. Only the first case said they were the cause. The one where I said mid-management was in a no-win situation was not blaming them at all.

I have been one of the biggest proponent of management in Agile. I have stated that one of the reasons that the Agile Manifesto for Software Development is outdated is because it doesn't mention management. I have promoted Lean-management for years, was one of the first who railed against Scrum's Chicken and Pigs story, and many other things.

I have also long stated that beating up management was unfair that i've seen Agile fail as much because teams didn't want to do it as much as management caused a problem.

Thanks for nuancing Al - it showed me that i was thinking too much of the own situation.

The most draining fights i usually fight are about our middle management being more courageous when it comes to defending their beliefs in front of the top management, so I guess i'm disagreeing from a "wannabe" perspective :).

Nevertheless, this is why I love the article - it just comes close to so many organisational issues, that otherwise get dismissed as different symptoms, because most folk love to justify their line of reporting.

Ciprian: Thanks for the response.
You might find this post helpful
Why you need Science as well as empiricism to enroll management in Agile

thank you! i pocketed it for later

Al, these are key reflections here. For the customer that did not wanted to hear the "why," I wonder if their efforts were sustainable. My thought is that an element of culture change and embedding mechanisms ought to be present. Thank you

Darren- in their case it was sustainable. But only because:
1) the company was going this way
2) they had the necessary ingredients for Scrum to work
3) they had access to coaches later

But without these factors I agree with you that they probably wouldn't have been.

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