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Why Do Agile Projects Fail

Many advice-based business articles these days stress the importance of a shift to agile projects. However, what does one do when they have made the shift to agile but the projects still fail? The old “he told me to do it” defence won’t save your project, so it is beneficial to know in advance why agile projects fail. Ronda Bowen lists the top 12 reasons agile projects fail:

  • An Unreliable Team
  • Weak Leaders
  • Poor Stakeholder Communication
  • Requirements and Specifications are Incomplete or Too Abstract
  • The Retrospective is Not Being Effectively Implemented
  • Your Team is Too Focused on “Success” and Not Focused Enough on “Learning”
  • Team Members and Stakeholders Try to Hide
  • Agile Lacks a Cohesive Set of “Best Practices”
  • Agile Lacks a Cohesive Set of Metrics
  • Inefficient Use of Time
  • Scope Creep
  • Not Relying on Experts to Learn and Implement Agile Techniques

Most projects will fail with a weak team, regardless of whether they are agile projects or not. The same can be said for weak team leadership and poor stakeholder communication. Since agile projects are a newer way of doing things, specifications and requirements need to be clearly defined or there could be a greater lack of understanding than traditional projects. Bowen emphasises that there is also a problem when the retrospective is not effectively implemented: Agile projects depend on retrospectives being performed so that you can discuss with team members what was learned, how the team is performing, and how your team can improve. If you are not holding proper retrospective meetings, your team may falter for it. Not only will it be more difficult to place where everyone is, but if a team member struggles while another can help them out, you are missing out on an important opportunity for collaborative project success. Make sure to hold retrospective meetings on a regular basis. Success can be a great motivator, but when it is the only thing driving your team little will be learned. If you do not learn, you cannot improve future projects, Bowen argues. On the other hand, if you find that your team members are more concerned with avoiding work than learning or succeeding, your agile project will most likely fail. Again, agile is new, so it therefore lacks a cohesive set of “best practices” and metrics. Wasted time will equal wasted effort and lack of success for an agile project, Bowen notes. This is true of any project, agile or otherwise. Also, scope creep, although not as big an issue for agile as non-agile projects, should be watched out for. Finally, when a project team chooses not to rely on experts, there is little hope for improvement on this or any future agile project.  

About Matthew Kabik

Matthew Kabik is the former Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He worked at Computer Aid, Inc. from 2008 to 2014 in the Harrisburg offices, where he was a copywriter, swordsman, social media consultant, and trainer before moving into editorial.

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