Some organisations don’t want agile

I don’t mean they outwardly proclaim they don’t want to be agile. No one would be foolish enough to do that. And who doesn’t want better software, faster anyhow?

But what I mean is that observed behaviours on the shop floor often trump the idealised notions of agile, including the desired agile ways of working espoused by things like the Scrum guide.

“How long until the first version is complete? Marketing need to confirm a firm date for the campaign”

“Here are the high-fidelity pixel-perfect designs for web and mobile user journeys for the development teams to implement”

“We will have to let another of our local teams go because we get a more cost-effective solution from our offshore IT supplier”

“The product owner does not speak to the engineers directly or attend the ceremonies except for demos because he is too busy managing the product”

The agile coach may shake their head, throw their hands up and say they ‘can’t help a client who won’t help themselves’. However, that response would be ignorant of the pressures of business and the complexity of large enterprise organisations.

Winning business, developing products, responding to industry demands, keeping up with competitors, technology obsolescence, regulatory requirements, managing staff and suppliers, cost control, maintaining quality, and satisfying shareholders. Distributed across different counties and regions, headed up by various directors and managers.

The notion of small, autonomous, cross-functional product teams who ship frequently and practice continuous improvement can seem like a pipe dream, particularly if the organisation is not in the business of technology.

Unless the CEO has introduced Scrum/Agile, it often remains just one small initiative in the product or technology department. Restricted by structural constraints and organisational limitations. Ready to be overridden, deprioritised or ignored when something more important comes along.

This is the reality of building enterprise software. No one has failed or should be disappointed when agile teams don’t live up to the espoused ideals; there’s already enough pressure as it is.

Frank Ray Consulting. Software requirements for agile development teams, particularly distributed, remote and offshore development teams working in financial services.

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