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Dylan Smith ALM / Architecture / TFS

In part 1 of this series we looked at Why Agile Fails due to lack of mature Technical Practices.

The 2nd really common reason I see teams fail with Agile is due to a lack of experience with *successful* agile projects.

What I see far too often is teams that have read all about agile online, and possibly been to some conferences and heard people talk about it.  Maybe some (or all) of the team members go and read some agile books, and maybe they even decide to send all team members on a 1-week Scrum course.

These are all good things, however, there is no substitute for actual experience working on a successful agile team.  There is just no way reading a book, or even taking a course can be a substitute for real-life hands-on experience.

There are a lot of tricky little details that all add up and make the difference between a team being successful or not with Agile.  Things like:

  • How do I split up the work into User Stories that follow INVEST principles
  • How do we break-down the work into meaningful tasks
  • What do we do when we reach the end of a Sprint and User Stories are only half-done
  • How do we build trust between the team and the stakeholders and/or upper management (this is a *really* hard one)
  • What are the problems that we should be focusing on in the Retrospective
  • How do we prioritize paying down technical debt against our customer facing User Stories
  • etc

A lot of these are problems that books and training may try to tackle, but they are the type of things that you can really only learn by experiencing them.

I think that training is important – possibly even necessary – but it is not sufficient (and I say this even though my company offers this training:  You *need* to have at least one senior team member that has lived and breathed agile in a successful team.  Who has seen how tricky Epics can be broken down into effective User Stories.  Somebody who can recognize when something is not going well and can bring it up in the retrospective.

I think that last point is possibly one of the most important.  Teams with no experience with Agile success have a hard time recognizing when they are doing things poorly.  They often think that’s just the way things are supposed to be, or don’t recognize that they are doing something that is going to hurt them down the road.


So my advice for any team that wants to try Agile, is to make sure you have somebody (senior) on the team that has experience living and breathing agile, and it has to be experience being successful with Agile.  Having somebody with Agile experience on a team that failed, obviously isn’t going to be too helpful.

I’m a consultant who does agile coaching, so one option I’ll of course suggest is bringing in an Agile Coach from one of the many good consulting firms that do this.  My company – Imaginet – does this:

However, hiring a consultant is not the only option here.  Hiring an employee (or recruiting one from another department) with the desired experience would work just as well.  The key point is to make sure you have somebody (preferably several somebodies) that have this experience on your team.

Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 2:20 PM Agile | Back to top

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