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Five Reasons Why Agile Adoption Fails to Generate Expected Results

Agility has been a topic of discussion for several years, and we've seen how many traditional organizations have started adopting agile processes. However, when I ask about the results of these adoptions, I often receive discouraging news. That's why I've decided to share five reasons, based on my experience, that explain why agility often fails to generate the expected results.

1. Lack of alignment


When there is no consensus on what "agility" means, everything becomes more complicated. I have experienced the difficulty of moving forward when multiple definitions, implementation styles, or ways of measuring agility coexist. In particular, if the business leaders have different or completely contradictory expectations about agility, it is unlikely that they will achieve satisfactory results.


Recommendation: Begin by writing a clear definition of agility with top management. Identify any fake news, exaggerated expectations, or unrealistic benefits. Be direct with them, clarify concepts, and seek consensus to adapt agility to the context of your organization.


2. Vanity metrics


Many areas responsible for adopting agility rely on vanity metrics because short-term results are demanded. These metrics look impressive in presentations, such as the number of agile teams and trained personnel. However, these numbers offer little insight into the progress of adoption. Worse yet, they create false expectations among leaders.


Recommendation: Promoting achievements is essential, and vanity metrics can be helpful. However, it's important to complement them with realistic metrics that measure the frequency of value delivery, the number of experiments, the number of failures, and more. This way, you can sell something that's real and demonstrate that there's still much to do.


3. Little investment in technological renovation


Achieving results with outdated or poor-quality technology can be challenging, especially if the core of the business relies on software. Even if everyone embraces agile values, delivering value frequently can be difficult if modifying or launching new digital products takes too long or costs too much. Agility can only move forward at the pace that technology allows.


Recommendation: Eventually, outdated technology will need to be updated. Therefore, leaders should decide to renew it incrementally over the next few years or risk waiting for competition or another factor to force them to do it abruptly, hastily, and at a high cost.


4. Lack of talent


Having the right talent is crucial for moving in the desired direction and at the desired speed. However, there is no clear solution due to a shortage of talent with the necessary experience or their high cost. In addition, traditional organizations have too many professionals who need to update their skills. This represents a complex challenge where much remains to be discovered.


Recommendation: It is essential to align agility expectations and results with the available or future talent. Seeking ambitious results with teams that have little experience or are outdated is very risky. Therefore, I recommend relying on realistic metrics that reveal the lack of talent to your business leaders.


5. Cultural change is not progressing.


Although cultural change is a frequently discussed topic, there have been few recent advances in this area. As a result, resistance to change, fear of failure, blame-seeking, and micromanagement still persist. The short-term focus on obtaining results can impede the success of long-term initiatives, such as cultural change. This has a negative impact on the adoption of agility and its results.


Recommendation: If cultural change is not progressing, adjust the expectations and results of agility. Demonstrate with realistic metrics that the prevailing culture prevents better results from being achieved. Ensure that the effects in this area will be long-term.


Conclusion


We do not see compelling results from adopting agility in traditional organizations because we are still learning and there is much left to discover. Therefore, it's important to learn from your mistakes and identify what prevents you from delivering value frequently, adapting to change, and putting the customer at the center. These are the results you should expect from agility.

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