Agile Failure and Corporate Culture

Last week I presented Agile Culture and Adoption Survival Guide at Agile New England. My message was around needing to understand corporate culture before undertaking Agile adoption or Agile transformation. The message resonated really strongly with participant and I received many personal thanks from people afterwards. The purpose of this post is to share additional data from that session.

Agile Failure

I did a hand vote to see how much failure people had seen with Agile adoption they were involved in. See photo on the right: most of the group rated their experiences with Agile success at 3 out of 5.

The results were pretty much consistent with the other times I have  run this: about 50% failure. I guess we can call this one – Agile is heading for the trough of disillusionment. But I haven’t given up – it’s time to up our game and turn this around.

Culture at Participant Companies

 Participants were worked in small groups to discuss what was the dominant culture at their company using the Schneider Model.  The photo below shows a histogram of the dominant culture. The peak is 30 participants identifying a control culture. It is interesting to note the relatively high 16 for Competence culture (vs. previous workshops) that represents the high density of hard-core engineering companies in the Boston area.

Closing Thoughts

Maybe the 50% failure is because 50% of the companies are control culture. Probably not entirely true, but this may be a helpful meme that allows us to change our approaches and behaviours to succeed.

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  1. Just a reminder that Rightshifting and the Marshall Model answer the questions you pose above.

  2. I agree, it is one possible answer. And there are others as well.

  3. Hi Michael,

    Which means that the Agile Success rate in IT projects is more or less 40%, which is probably less than the success rate (if you consider challenged projects a success) when applying waterfall (see: CHAOS report on IT project failure. So i say, what’s the point of using Agile, if the success rate is not improved over waterfall?

    • Agile failure means that we were unable to successfully adopt Agile practices and shift to an Agile mindset; not about delivery success. Project delivery may be better or worse than waterfall – generally results are still better even if adoption is partial.

      See VersionOne survey for tangible benefits of Agile. This conversation is about making it even better than it is now, not abandoning it.


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