I keep hearing complaints of projects who go sprint-after-sprint with their Agile project and can’t make progress. Regardless, the methodology, I’ve got three observations to pass along to readers. For the past few years, Agile seems to be the hot topic but it’s still no guarantee for project success. Read on for more thoughts:
- Any Methodology is Better Than None: Anyone who starts using a methodology, such as Agile, sees some good results, and then claims that that methodology is the best thing ever is deluding themselves. When you start with nothing, anything is an improvement. I ran across research about this when I was in grad school and it was compelling research. In the years since that, I’ve come to truly believe that it doesn’t matter what you pick – if you pick something, learn it well and stick with it, it’s going to help your process.
- There Will Always Be People Who Make Excuses: Whatever methodology you select, there will always be people who claim it’s no good and will tell you why it’s not working. Every methodology has it’s good and bad points and you will have your areas where you need to improve, too, but don’t throw away what you’re doing only because you need to put more work into it. Learning something that is more “hot” or “cool” won’t make your projects better.
- The Latest, Greatest Methodology Won’t Save You: There is no methodology that will save you from yourself. I’ve seen projects do well with “modified” Agile (it seems that no-one can take a methodology and use it without making their own changes to it so I want to be careful about making any claims about success or failure with regard to this). There are also plenty of projects that just can’t get a foothold in a new methodology. I’ve seen companies that claim they’re entirely switching to Agile but have teams who, sprint-after-sprint, make little to no progress. It’s possible these teams just can’t work properly using Agile or that there’s some other problem within the team. Somewhere, they might not have the right tools or the right training. In any case, throwing Agile at them and forcing them to fail sprint-after-sprint isn’t doing anyone any good. Companies don’t want to spend the time to determine what the cause of failure is, which is why they pick one methodology for everyone, to begin with, thinking it’s some kind of solution for everything wrong within the organization, but it’s not realistic. When a team fails, you have to roll up your sleeves and help them. Too often, this leads to blame. Blame doesn’t solve the problems. Only hard work gets you closer to a solution.