Why Do Agile Transformations (Continue to) Fail?

Another Point ... and Better Question!

From a Version One email:  “Why Agile Transformations Fail – Learn why culture is the key to agile failure and success in this video with insights into the trends from the 10th annual State of Agile Report.”

That culture is the key is not surprising.  I have evangelized this for more than a decade, with clients and at Agile 2008 among other conferences.  Here is a related article:  Face Culture or Face Failure.

One of the most common issues?  Changing from control-oriented processes to those that increase individual and team autonomy is pretty much guaranteed to cause a culture clash.

There is, however, an even better question.

The better question is “Why do transformations fail?”

I covered many reasons in Wrong Until Right – How to Succeed Despite Relentless Change.  Here are some major ones:

  • “Transformation” is not really intended.  The target is often incremental change, not fundamental change demanded by “transformation.”
  • “Transformation” is intended, but initiated by leaders and intended for others.  If leaders don’t change to match the transformation, the transformation will eventually fail.
  • “Transformation” is focused on processes only.

For any major change, all aspects of the business model must be considered and changed as needed:

Total Business Success Model - Dr. Michael O'Connor

Total Business Success Model – Dr. Michael O’Connor

Focusing only on one quadrant or part of one quadrant will undermine transformation at best and doom transformation at worst.

Be different.  Don’t believe that changing an isolated process – from waterfall to agile for instance – will constitute transformation.  And don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise unless they have proof.


By Mike Russell