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The biggest mistakes when implementing Agile business methodologies

The first computing crisis happened in the early ’90s. Companies’ needs were increasing exponentially and the average leadtime of new applications was three years. When a solution was finally delivered, the company’s needs, requirements and systems had already changed.

Businesses could not keep up with their progress and developers were getting more and more frustrated every day, until several professionals decided to meet at a ski resort in 2001 and find the most efficient way to develop software.

The rest is history. The new Agile concept spread like wildfire through companies around the globe. Agile is now a workplace standard that enables small businesses to get organized much more effectively than large corporations, with all the resources and experience available to them. And, more importantly still, to deliver more value to their customers.

Agility is not the same as sticking post-its on a wall

Companies understand the importance of being agile, but many confuse agility with sticking post-its on a wall, and fail when they try to implement Agile methodology in their teams. Why?

The answer is not easy and requires all the attention that Carlos Iglesias gives it in the online Business Agility programme. But here are five reasons why most Agile transformations in companies are doomed to failure.

1. Pre-fab models

One of the best-known Agile models is Spotify. It is often said that this company is minutely organised in tribes that contain fully sectorised squads and chapters.


Peculiarly enough, this model does not actually exist. It’s simply an employee’s idea that caught on and then went global, but it is not a set or unchanging model.

This is precisely the first mistake when implementing an Agile work methodology: we are too fond of formulae. In fact, Agile does not pursue a specific goal. It is a road of on-going improvement.

Transformation is not a goal but the road itself

Because of the human love of labelling everything, Agile is often confused with Scrum and other terms. But Agile is not a specific formula. It is an umbrella term that embraces many concepts. Its aim is not to choose a methodology and implement it, but to understand what all these frameworks offer in order to adapt them to the circumstances and goals of the project.


2. Functional silos

When a company implements Agile, it usually tries it out on a small part first. At the outset, this test area or happy isle as it is also called is very exciting but when we try to infect the rest of the company with the same enthusiasm we run up against glass ceilings and walls.

In big companies, departments are very protective of their organisation and behave like tinpot dictators. Their goals and budgets are theirs alone and they compete with other areas of the company for them.

As a result, giving customers value becomes an on-going delegation of responsibilities. Projects never end. Some focus on market analysis, others define goods and services, some are in charge of marketing… In the end, it takes months or years to launch new ventures.

To deal with being out of synch, the company must bring its structure into line with multifunctional models in which each team can deliver value to the client directly and independently. This can only be done by breaking down departmental silos.

3. Micromanagement

The third most common mistake when implementing Agile in a company is overlooking the self-organization of teams. In the most classic leadership models, leaders send requests to their teams who then manage them with the rest of the company.

Agile’s counterproposal in this sphere is a more organic model that takes advantage of the diversity and interaction of different professionals to allow them to organize themselves and manage their work autonomously.

4. Lack of priorities

A very common problem when we try to transition to Agile models is that teams receive many requests from different stakeholders. As a result, there is no clear priority: each individual prioritizes what they are going to do in their working day and the common goal is lost.

In Agile, the solution to this is Visual Management. Tasks do not belong to anyone and the whole team knows what each member does and what the priorities are. With this prioritized backlog, all work is visible and professionals take care of their tasks instead of taking on a burden imposed from outside.

Agile doesn’t manage people. It manages the work people do

5. Loss of focus

The last but not least mistake on the list is to regard Agile as a goal in itself. If companies cannot explain why they want to be agile, they will end up forcing teams to change how they work without really sharing their reasons.

To make Agile a shared goal, leaders must convey their vision of the project: agility gives customers more value, enhances their experience and aligns company-wide goals.

These are the five most common mistakes when a company undertakes an agile transformation. Now that you are aware of them, it will be easier for you to avoid them and achieve a more efficient, autonomous and customer-oriented company.

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