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


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