Why do organisations fail Agile Adoption?

  • Publisher:  Leadership Tribe
  • Author:  Aarti Bhatt

Agile has been the new buzz word for many organisations and at times hear that ‘Agile does not work for us or we have failed Agile adoption’.

The core intent of organisation transformation is to deliver value and achieve the desired outcome. They start by running pilot projects using frameworks such as Scrum, Kanban, and various other DevOps methods. These projects turn out to be quite successful for a short duration.However, companies are failing to adopt these on a larger scale. In other words, run all their projects under the Agile umbrella, in the long run, starting from the team members to the managers and executives. They inevitably switch to the traditional model when the application of Agile fall apart.

Why have organisations failed agile adoption, you may ask? Where are they going wrong? Well, the reasons are two-fold.


Why do we need to change in the first place?

Instead of following a trend blindly and implementing changes, companies need to gauge whether or not their current processes need the conversion in delivery models.

Here are the market dynamics based on which companies can decide whether they need to take a second look at their strategies, and choose to take up the Agile journey:

  • Customer outcomes: Are the delivering value to the customers frequently and do they expect personalization in terms of products and services?
  • Rapid innovation cycle: Has the innovation cycle been accelerated due to the entry of new products? Have other companies been taking competitive advantage of this acceleration?
  • Disruption in technology: Are new and advanced products and services emerging due to technology disruption? Is it leading to quicker business decisions and cost reduction?

For instance, if the ongoing projects have come across automation via robotics, digital business models, more efficient services using Xaas and AI via cloud solutions, then it is an indication of adopting Agile.

Apart from the technology perspective, the business benefits that come with adopting Agile are cost reduction through productivity gains, increased employee engagement, better customer advocacy, higher speed to market, faster reaction time, and a work culture led by innovation.

Here are some points that could help in analyzing the need for the change in business processes:

  • Estimate the gain and benefits alignment with business or leadership areas on the expected outcome, using the success or failure data from the pilot projects.
  • Make sure that the aforementioned alignment, and buy-in, is crucial in sustaining the Agile transformation

What’s the Purpose and outcome we want to deliver?

After deciding whether a change is necessary for the business, the next logical question is where the change should begin. Organisations generally try to scale across every technology and business function without identifying the areas with specific needs.

In addition, implementing Agile and scaling all areas in a uniform pace may not be the right way to go about it. A different approach such as a right-speed or multi-speed approach would be required.

To gain more clarity, let us look at an example. The front, middle, and back offices will require the changes to be done at different speeds. All sections in an organisation need not operate at the highest speed. In case the customer makes no profit from the delivery speed, the time and money spent on scaling Agile would go to waste.

Besides, the companies themselves need to re-evaluate their environment and overall architecture and gauge the requirement for Agile. The right pace in which Agile must be implemented should be determined by the business vision, customer aspirations, and operational constraints.

Different Speeds for Different Scenarios

Agile can be applied to various types of projects.

  • In a project with gaps in customer requirements, Agile can be utilised to deliver value increments that are smaller at the beginning and to adjust the subsequent iterations on the basis of the feedback received from the customer.
  • In a project where the customer has already put forth the requirements, Agile can still be introduced to minimise the risks by providing a solution in increments.

The culture of the organisation. How do we address it?

Companies tend to focus on how and when they must adapt to the new manner of working across all functions involved in the company. Unfortunately, these factors are not enough to make the change.

Here is where the first issue arises—they start from making changes on the technology side alone. Scaling Agile methods successfully at the portfolio or organisational levels requires a structural shift across technology, processes, people, and culture. It is not enough if done from the technology and process level only. It has to be introduced to the people side as well.

The necessity of Agility?

This brings us to the second issue—insufficient knowledge on why the new method has to be adopted and starting from where. Companies lack information on the exact benefits of implementing Agile and in what areas the change is required.

How do we measure success?

Working with leaders we have heard this phrase ‘It is not as easy as we think it is, to measure success’. What if we measure what matters for the organisation. Here are some of the common one which might apply for you

On-Time Delivery

This is the most popular way of measuring initial success. On Time delivery is the goal for every team irrespective of which field. Meeting time to time commitments leads to a higher competitive advantage and higher confidence. Burn down charts play a major role here to illustrate how much work is left versus the time in hand to accomplish it.

Product Quality

Product quality can be a challenge to measure but many organisations opt to measure success through this mode. Some say that quality can be measured through an increase in revenue and customer feedback, but this might not always be the case. Relying on hard metrics like continuously testing and inspecting throughout the entire development cycle is a proven way to successfully measuring product quality.

Project Visibility

It is crucial for Agile teams to be able to track and see exactly how the work is progressing, making relevant data visible. One of the best ways to bring visibility is by building trust and ensuring complete transparency with teams.


Productivity in an Agile Environment is a measure of outcomes and not output. Looking at burnup charts that show visibility of stories and features over time is a great way to understand how much the teams are actually delivering.

Customer/ User Satisfaction

There are numerous ways to measure customer satisfaction. To have the clearest visibility, combining the Net Promoter scores with relevant usage statistics which display how customers are actually using the product, and how that usage has changed since the initiative was completed help.

Employee Engagement

The fundamental component of an Agile organisation is empowered, autonomous and competent teams. Having motivated employees is not the only factor. Research indicates that motivated employees go hand in hand with happy customers, greater productivity, profitability and great products.

If Agile is Mindset then how come Agile Transformation Fails?

To summarise, the pace at which Agile is implemented can never be uniform for every project. Hence, companies must utilize Agile based on a ‘why and where’ approach as opposed to the ‘how and when’, to be able to successfully adopt it across organisations.

Agile is about Mindset. It’s not about the way we start using some of those engineering practices to make things happen. Yes, the engineering practices are valuable and without the right purpose, we are just wasting time. To drive change, we need to understand the purpose of ‘why’ and ‘what does success mean to us’. At Leadership Tribe, we have been helping organisations, starting from individuals, teams, Leadership, business units as well as at the strategic level. What does it take to create better, faster, cheaper and happier customer & Employees? Reach out to us! We have worked with various sectors like financial organisations, Internal Auditing, Legal, Airlines, Engineering and Software industries. How can we be part of your journey to bring change in your organisation where you are successful?


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