Why would Agile fail for you?

This is not yet-another-agile-gaga blog, but a story, some of you might find it interesting as well.

Not A very long time ago and not in a galaxy far,far away, there were two teams.
One team was following Scrum without Agile Mindset and second had an agile mindset.
The ‘A’ team who were following Scrum, failed!! And ended up blaming agile, whereas the second team ‘B’, came out in flying colors and eventually moved to scrum.

Let’s delve into the details to see what exactly happened…

Team A

The team was following Waterfall earlier, they had hierarchy, people were slogging, team was not happy and hence the project was failing.

Suddenly they were told to take up Agile! Hence they introduced Scrum practices into their team .With scarce agile mindset coaching, they started following the processes. Below are the results:

1. The hierarchy was removed from the team, everyone had an equal say.

As some senior team members were not convinced enough they did not believe in this. Sometimes they would not give their input and wait for things to go wrong and just to prove a point. This created a lack of trust and chaos in the team.

2. Sprint planning and estimation was done in story points:

Everyone believed it was just another way of estimation and did not understand the intension behind it. Moreover there was pressure from delivery to estimate in hours for future billing projections. Hence after the team had estimated in story points a constant to convert story points into hours was introduced.

3. Process: The iteration cycle become 3 weeks long with demo at the sprint end

As there were hours involved team members had to slog sometimes. Demo became a tool to pressurize team for delivery, hence the team perceived demo as a burden rather than feedback. So again this ritual became a cause of agony.

4. Daily Standups were held:
There was lack of trust, people thought it was a burden and it became a formality. Soon team started hating it.

5. Retro at the sprint end:
Throughout the sprint people would not raise issue but wait for the retro to blame each other for failures.

6. Feedback:
Nothing happened people did not understand this concept at all.

So here we see a typical case of Agile going wrong when people just follow the process without knowing why is Agile important and what is the mindset required.

Team B

In the second case: we see how a team who had a mindset of Agile automatically followed some practices of scrum without even knowing about them. Eventually started following scrum and became successful.

So in the second team:

1. There was no hierarchy.

2. Every one updated each other of the tasks they were doing every morning (equivalent to Scrum Standup update).

3. They had small iteration cycles of 3 weeks and feedback was taken and implemented.

4. Estimation: (how they evolved to story point estimation)

Initially they were doing a very broad estimation in hours at the start of every iteration.
Later they observed that this estimation was different from developer to developer.

• This was found in a collaboration meeting at the end of iteration (equivalent to Scrum Retro).

• First solution they found was to estimate with respect to each developer. But this involved a dependency of that person in the team and if some else had to that it did not work. The idea failed in that iteration.

• Next meeting they were thinking on the lines of a finding a method which would be comparative, weighted and take care of complexity as well but would not be dependent on the hours each developer would take.

• Someone in the team found out about Story points estimation in Agile and they started following it.

They had the agile mindset to collaborate, accept feedback and share the findings.

Which helped them learn “WHY” estimate in story points. And once the “REASON” was clear they implemented Scrum successfully in their team.


So, to summarize, I would say that once the team can understand the value of “WHY” then everything would eventually fall in place.

Teams will focus on WHAT needs to be done, because they know WHY it is important and HOW to do it will come at runtime. Though Mindset can lead to defining processes Process cannot instill a Mindset on its own.

That is what I feel, AGILE MINDSET is all about.

This blog was originally posted at http://xebee.xebia.in/2012/03/22/why-would-agile-fail-for-you/

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