The Four Most Common Pitfalls of Agile Methodology

Watch out for four traps that can hurt the agile development process.

Many companies that struggle with agile development either fail to commit the right resources or focus solely on IT, and, ultimately, these missteps derail the agile transformation process. Agile transformation can stall in many ways, including:

  • Containing agile only in IT. Most agile programs are championed initially and solely by the CIO. Although IT is a logical place to first embrace a new product development methodology, engaging the business leadership early on and collaborating across the organization to define such details as organization design and the governance model are absolutely crucial to success. Agile transformation must be driven across all parts of an enterprise. 
  • Settling for unempowered product owners. As the name suggests, product owners need to own the product. If they can’t change the scope or add team members, then they can’t make the decisions that need to be made. All too often, product owners are given defined parameters that they must work within, but limiting owners does not yield results. Empowering product owners requires a governance model that allows for greater freedom and a cultural change that focuses on trusting lower-level employees.
  • Lacking sustained leadership commitment. Agile development fundamentally changes the way work is done, and it demands that employees and managers break with patterns of behavior that have proven successful for many years. If you want employees to fully adopt new behaviors, they must know that executive leadership has their back, and that embracing this new way of working won’t backfire in a few months. 
  • Falling back into old habits. Agile teams get a lot of attention from management, trainers, and coaches early on, but once the initial excitement fades and the team faces a setback, people tend to fall back into their previous behaviors. We’ve found that agile teams experience a dip about two to three months into a transformation, but they ultimately embrace agile change and continue to work at a high level. Targeted support and coaching during this phase is critical to ensure teams don’t fall back into old patterns.