There is no guaranteed success rate with any management approach – agile management included. It’s important to recognize that failures and missteps could happen within your agile management system. In learning why, your team is struggling with agile, you can make the actionable changes that put you on the path to agile management success.

Now, we know that no one likes to admit when they’re struggling or failing – but to be a true leader for your team and organization, you must speak up. Otherwise, you and your team will remain on a constant vicious cycle of hope for success, failure, frustration, and ultimately collapse.


The tangential impacts of agile management failure run deep within an organization, resulting in lost customers, lack of confidence from upper management, distrust in agile with your team members, and more than likely the loss of key star performers. After all, no one wants to be part of a project or series of projects that just can’t make it to the success point.


As an agile management leader, product owner, scrum master, or agile team member – it’s up to you to be proactive in forcing change. When taking a hard and honest look at how you’re doing agile – look for these warning flags.


Lack of Team Communication

One of the fundamentals of a successful agile team is one that embraces communication. During daily stand-ups, pair programming, iteration reviews, retrospectives, and pretty much anytime the team is working – they should be communicating.

When your team is not talking, it’s hard to know what really is and isn’t going on. Then suddenly you’re two days away from the end of the iteration and you find out the acceptance tests haven’t been reviewed or there are blockers which have halted progress.

Create an environment that fosters communication – carefully choose your team members, give them the tools they need to communicate easily, be vocal yourself and speak up when you’re dealing with a problem.


Unclear ScrumMaster Role

It’s very common for the ScrumMaster to be a recent hire or member of the team. Not only is your team struggling to adjust to a new approach to management and development, now there is a new person who no one knows or trusts. In some teams, the addition of a ScrumMaster gives the team members a sense that they’re not capable to work without a “babysitter”.

You know that this is not the role of the ScrumMaster – and your team needs to know this. Make sure it’s very clear that the ScrumMaster is there to help the team in meeting their deliverables. Your ScrumMaster should be looking after the team in the sense that she removes blockers, communicates with the product owner, provides advice on agile best-practices, and really helps out in any way possible.

Product Owner Lacks Expertise

It can be challenging, particularly in highly technical agile software development teams, for the product owner to fit in. While the product owner doesn’t need the same level of technical skills as your developers, he does need to be an authority of expertise on your key niche and influencing industry trends and momentum.

The product owner is responsible for the vision and path of your product. Working with the agile teams, upper management, marketing, sales, and customers to drive the product in the right direction. When the product owner lacks critical industry and domain knowledge, failure is inevitable. The teams are left scrambling with unclear stories, the customers are not getting what they need, and eventually the entire agile system collapses.

Agile Training Didn’t Happen

Do not skimp on agile training. You cannot expect your team to succeed at agile if they don’t know anything about it. Without training, it’s only a matter of time for the team to slip back into the processes and methodologies they’ve always used.

To ensure a true adoption of agile development and management, your team needs the knowledge, resources, and background to succeed. Consider bringing in an agile coach who stays on-site for up to six months to help guide the team. Hold regular refresher sessions, lunch-and-learns, and collect feedback on what is and isn’t working.

Don’t let any of your team members skip the agile training. Everyone must be on-board and understand the reasoning behind agile. Get key team members invested in learning about agile, send them on conferences and encourage them to provide guidance to anyone who needs it.

Using the Wrong or Old Tools

Remember the first point about communication – well, your agile management tools are critical in enabling this communication. Old, flat software that doesn’t support collaboration, instant communication, ease-of-sharing, or the creation of actionable stories – simply doesn’t work in agile.

Give your team the software and tools they need. Talk to them, ask them what their barriers are with the current tools. Find out what they want out of their agile tools. Do your research, test your options, give your team ownership in choosing the agile tools that will provide real support and success.

Creating Agile Management Success

Remember that agile is more than a system or practice, it’s a methodology that guides you in how you interact with your team members, customers, and organization goals. Half the battle for most teams is in having access to the right information at the right time – keep the lines of communication open and put a real focus on collaboration.

Listen to your team, hold retrospectives, give everyone an equal voice – doing so encourages teamwork and puts an emphasis back on the individual. Remove the barriers, eliminate blockers and get everyone working together.

When you realize agile management success, don’t see this as the time to sit back and relax your focus. True continued success is a constant process that takes flexibility, openness, acceptance to change, and collaboration. Complacency with your agile management approach can quickly put you back where you don’t want to be. Stay proactive and ready to adapt as needed.

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