Agile Myths Debunked

Agile Myths Debunked

Insights | 08 November 2016

With more traditional methods of project delivery being seen as running over time and budget and often failing to deliver solutions that meet business needs, agile methods are continually viewed as the answer.

Yet the term agile is used, applied, and interpreted, in different and often confusing ways.

With that, we have compiled some notions that seek to debunk common myths about agile practice.

5 Agile Myths Debunked

1. Agile is Scrum. While the Scrum framework is one of the most well-known agile approaches, Scrum and agile are not synonymous. There are other agile approaches, including SAFe®, AgilePM®, Lean, Kanban and XP (eXtreme Programming) to name a few, and Scrum is just one approach.

2. Agile always uses timeboxes. Many agile approaches use the concept of fixed time periods (timebox or sprint) which are typically 2-4 weeks. A timebox (or sprint) is managed by prioritising work – the deadline for the timebox should not be moved. In contrast, the Kanban method which focuses on continuous flow (not timeboxes) is a widely used agile approach. Kanban limits work in progress, which can sometimes seem counterintuitive, and thus, reduces the negative impacts of task-switching and multi-tasking.

3. Agile practices remove all risk. All can be a dangerous word! Yes, agile practices by their very nature, do mitigate many risks associated with more traditional approaches. Risks are dealt with on a regular and proactive basis, for example, through the Daily Standup/Daily Scrum and continuously reacting to feedback (think iterative and incremental). But if agile practices are not embraced at all levels this may introduce new threats.

Consider the fact that agile needs customer involvement. Take Scrum for example, whereby the product owner is part of the scrum team. If the customer is not able to make the time-commitment or not empowered to make decisions, then this can threaten progress.

4. Agile is the goal. Interestingly, agile ‘thinking’ and ways of working should be the enabler for an organisation to achieve its goals. Agile itself is not the goal – it is a means to achieving organisational goals and objectives. Consider in the first instance what you are really trying to achieve. Are agile practices and methods the best way to achieve your outcomes? Is the organisation ready to embrace agile as the means to an end? Are your teams really collaborative? Are they able to work iteratively and incrementally? Are there advantageous environmental conditions? Are you truly agile in your way of thinking and flexible on what is being delivered? Or does your team/organisation need to become more ‘agile friendly’?

5. Agile is easy – just do it. Easier said than done. Agile methods can be challenging where existing methods and practices have been the way of organisational life for years. True agile thinking is a mindset in its own right. Agile is not just a tool to be introduced into an organisation and switched on – the agile way of working involves cultivating behaviours, concepts and techniques for the ultimate objective of organisational agility.

Agile is about empowering people, driving value, and not playing the ‘blame game’. It’s about being collaborative and even recognising that not everything will be delivered which is not an easy ask for many organisations. Agile thinking needs to permeate at all levels of an organisation – not just in small pockets within IT teams.

“Agile needs to be applied appropriately to the context and the conditions of a project. It will be highly unlikely that you can apply it in the same way when building a nuclear submarine as you would when producing a new chocolate bar.”

SAFe is a trademark of Scaled Agile, Inc.
AgilePM is a registered trademark of Dynamic Systems Development Method Limited in the United Kingdom and other countries.
PRINCE2 Agile is a registered trade mark of AXELOS
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