Where does agile fall short in the eyes of executives?

Team-based Agile is failing our companies. Where do we go next?

Recently,  I read a ComputerWeekly article covering survey findings that indicate not only is Agile falling short, but that we still have a lot of work in our industry to understand what Agile is really about and what it takes to be successful.  Here’s the summary of the article:

‘Over half of CIOs have discredited agile development, according to a survey commissioned by London-based technology services firm, 6Point6. Three-quarters of the 300 UK and US-based CIOs surveyed said they were no longer prepared to defend it. Half said they now think of agile as “an IT fad”. Chris Porter, CTO of 6Point6 and author of An agile agenda: how CIOs can navigate the post-agile era whitepaper on which the survey results are based, said: “CIOs tell us they expect to undertake six agile projects next year.” According to the survey, CIOs predict two of these fail completely.

Some other findings in the survey:

  • 34% of agile project failures occur as a result of a lack of up-front planning.
  • 44% of failed agile projects did so because of a lack of documentation.
  • Over two-thirds of the CIOs who took part in the survey (68%) believed agile projects would benefit from more IT architects


According to these stats, Agile is falling far short of the expectations of our executives – but if you dig deeper, these numbers aren’t telling the full story.

These statements are result of thinking about Agile as only team-based project methodology, and not understand that is requires alignment, transparency, focus, and collaboration across groups in order to scale.  Creating a siloed Agile team is no better than siloed project teams in the past – especially if they aren’t working on the right things with the right people.


So, is it time for Agile to die?

Not exactly. But it is time for organizations to stop focusing all of their efforts on siloed scrum teams and instead, show Executive leaders that a cohesive and coordinated Agile approach can create real outcomes and solve the difficult problems that keep Executives up at night.  We also need to go back to some of the original intentions of those that were discovering new ways of work many years ago, that became what we have called “Agile”.  In our company, we’ve evolved it to what we call Business Agility. Business agility is an enterprise’s standard practice to sense and respond to change proactively and confidently to deliver business value — faster than the competition — and as a matter of everyday business.

Here are some examples of the shifts needed to move towards greater Business Agility:

Experiment with continuous learning. There is no single framework or practice that works perfectly for every situation. Companies that are getting results understand what is out there, what problems they are trying to solve and inspect and adapt to get to the outcomes they are desiring.  Experimenting and learning NEVER end.


Rethink teams. A team sticks together. Work comes to the team, not the other way around. Team need to be working together as a single unit not a group of individuals with their own work. Teams need critical time with each other, focused time, in the same location, connecting and solving problems together. Teams need to not just start but complete things together, removing dependencies as they go.  Companies that are getting results understand what it takes to get to dedicated, persistent, high-performing and focus teams and does what it can to help those team stay together and succeed.


Customers have to be the center of your universe. Customers have to be every part of what you do and involved in getting early and often feedback.  Proxies are NOT the same thing.  We need to get out into the world and truly understand their needs not wants, solving real problems to make their lives better. Companies that are getting results validate their assumptions early, experiment with small solutions to get feedback, focus on automation and high levels of quality to ensure that the customer is delighted in the results.


IT is only a small part of your organization, expand to other parts. While Agile may have been intended originally for software project, it had become a shared mindset, a way of operating and delivering value that requires a commitment throughout the organization.  Companies that are getting results understand teams exist throughout all of the organization, and can work in a similar way with a similar cadence. This visibility into the work allow the organization to find ways to work better across all teams and together remove all barriers to get from ideas to outcomes.




Skip spent 25 years in software development in a variety of positions, but now—as a…



    Hi Skip – Your post is A Deja Vu for me 🙂

    Consider a different question… If a true Lean Enterprise was a person, what would she think of her Executives’ abilities to provide her what she needs, so she can provide to them the outcomes they desire?

    The selling points / considerations you state are the same ones that myself and others in the Agile Community been hearing and making for the past 12 years, from the time businesses really started experimenting with efforts to scale Agile values, principles and practices in their product development operations.

    The real question is why are we still having to try and convince business execs of the same points? I’ve found that it’s kind of like asking why does an organ transplant patient face the risk of their body rejecting the life saving improvement?. What is the equivalent of anti-rejection drugs? I understand one of the key actions in driving change is repetition, but this is getting ridiculous!

    For some companies, perhaps the only fix is time… as those that have grown up in the Agile Mindset and with a new way of working, start to take the helm at companies. What would also help is if financial markets stop only paying attention to financial performance of each company’s quarterly sprint to meet expectations. These sprints cause, lets face it, completely selfish actions that de-optimize the whole just so that a story with a happy ending can be told for another quarter.

    Keep fighting the good fight! Progress is certainly being made

    • Skip Angel

      Thanks Michael! It’s great to hear from you.nnI agree with you that the answer is to focus not on Agile as THE answer, but to solve real problems and focus on outcomes. I’ve made the mistake in the past of trying to sell Agile to Execs and have mostly failed. However, when I help work on their problems towards outcomes and think of continuous improvement with Agile being just one enabler the results and engagement of the leaders have been amazing to watch.

  • Mario Coluzzi

    “Agile is overrated and DevOps is misconceived”

    In every technical related topic, it looks like that the Agile and DevOp terms are a MUST in any ICT conversation. In my 30 years experience working as IT professional, I have seen team blamed for failures. The failure was not of the Teams or the wrong Agile approach/application, but solely due to lack of vision of the Manager or Team Leader.

    For some people Agile is a magic wand able to solve several everlasting problems. Hence the “management” cannot empower a team without also transmit across the vision or goal with the necessary “guidance”

    “Being agile is the attitude to solve a problem not to create more bureaucracy to drive a process.”

    What about DevOps then? For some this new terminology is more confusing than Software Development Life Cycle. A DevOps shows a LifeCycle in a way that not technical people may understand its processes. In any organisation, two-ways communication between teams is a must.

    “To lots of people DevOps is a clinching procedure that they believe it would assemble the correct path for them”.

    Is there a solution? A good start would come from common sense by removing nonsensical procedures.

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