Agile is not a Plug-in. (Why Agile Transformations Fail!)

Category : Agile





By Vineet Patni | 24 April 2017







Queries that my workshop participants fire at me have always intrigued me, and helped me add a new perspective towards Agile. This time, the raised hand put me to answer, “Why is this MNC not able to gain and scale up its delivery capabilities after transforming to Agile?” This well reputed company has failed to keep up to the expectations and could not deliver “as expected” with their newly built agile capabilities. 


Why is it so?

* Is it because it’s leaders or management team have suddenly become incompetent?

* Is it because the “great” processes and practices it has built over many years in the industry have become obsolete?

* Or, is it simply because Agile is just a fad or a buzz word.


I have a few pointers with which I intend to bust the  myths regarding Agile Transformation in big organizations. Let me elaborate some of these granular aspects which such big MNCs might have faced during or after their so-called “successful” Agile transformation:


Continued use of traditional project management tools and techniques:

Gantt charts, detailed upfront project plan, etc. are ways to stick to one plan forever without keeping a flexible avenue for modification. As per Lean principles, all we need is a plan that is just enough to get started. We need to focus on planning and re-planning, not THE PLAN.


“Love to plan but do not love your plan.”


Setting up an Agile Project Management Office (PMO):

A classic PMO cannot behave in the same way in an agile environment. A PMO is supposed to suggest a set of best practices for a team. In Agile, there cannot be a standard set of best practices that can be prescribed for all teams. Agile is most suitable when we are operating in a “complex domain” (Reference: Cynefin Framework) and the practices need to emerge in every team context.


“For best results, set up Agile communities of practices.”


Hierarchy within the development teams:

A manager’s prime directive shouldn’t be to manage, it should be to help and facilitate, to motivate and guide others around a vision. In other words, what growing tech companies need are leaders, not managers.


“In a team, everyone is equal. May he be a rookie or an experienced player.”


Traditional appraisal system with individual Key Responsibility Areas (KRAs):

Working in silos (e.g. programmer, tester, architect with different set of KRAs) is entirely against the principles of Agile. Departments, teams work towards a common goal. The system of individual KRAs must be gotten rid of if we wish to build great teams that would eventually build great products or deliver great services.


“Agile is a team sport.”


Logging “in-progress” defects to keep a record for future reference:

The whole idea is to deliver a defect free product. Methodologies were built keeping this vision in mind. Similarly, Agile was discovered with an idea of working together in a team with an objective of generating quality. As mentioned in the previous pointer, a tester traditionally detects errors and logs it. KRA achieved. But is the motive solved? Why waste time logging when you can communicate and help fix it.


“Defects are to be fixed, not to be logged.”


Maintaining a Requirement Traceability Matrix (RTM):

An RTM is for projects where requirements are clearly defined and fixed. Because we work in a complex domain, it is too optimistic to expect that the customer’s demands are definite. Also, the final showcase is all that matters. If transparency is the key, it can be discussed in a more personalized way to keep things going.


“RTM is not required if there is frequent validation and verification.”


Dear Amigos, Agile is not a plugin that we can just “install” on top of existing systems and processes. It’s a totally different mindset and needs a complete lifestyle change.


Let’s take the example of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission). In my opinion, it cannot be successful by implementing only at selected avenues ignoring the mindset of cleanliness instilled in people. We must first eradicate all the existing garbage and then start rebuilding on a clean slate.


Similarly unlearning and cleansing existing management tools and processes and most importantly people’s mindset change is a must before transforming into Agile.


About the author:

Vineet Patni is the Founder and Principal Agile Coach at ScaleUpAn avid learner and a passionate facilitator, Vineet has been assisting enterprises and individuals in becoming truly Agile. Please feel free to connect with him at 


“Be Agile, Scale Up!”


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are the author’s own. The author welcomes and respects any difference of opinion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *