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Author: Markanthony Akem

Why Agile Teams Fail

I have often argued that the center piece of organizational success or failure is people.

People interact and drive the day to day strategy, operations and tactic which provide the life line for every institution. Nonetheless, people especially regular employees are not accorded the respect, nor given proper treatment in most environments they work.

Now, people are found at all levels of an organization and play different roles with varying responsibilities that either places them as leaders or as followers. Apparently not all leaders are leaders, and most may wonder why am being emphatic about this, but the reality remains, most organizations fail at Agility adoption because of leadership ideologies. Here are some main reasons why Agile teams fail in my views;

1. Wrong people in the right position.
2. Entrenchment factor.
3. Understanding of concept.
4. POT
5. Ecosystem readiness.

Let’s start by discussing the five reasons above as I have a lot to say from my personal experiences deploying or working for organizations practicing Agile.

1. Wrong people in the right place: Organizations make the mistake of creating the right positions but place the wrong people to drive the objectives of such position. Sometimes the POT (Politics of Things) mind set and the whole idea of perceived competence, tends to erode the placement of right people in the right place within organizations. Organizational mis-alignments are typically caused by people not understanding the vision and how it syncs with their roles. The issue with the wrong people in right place is;

  1. No knowledge of employee skill set; Lots of managers or middle management have absolutely no clue of what training their direct reports have, looking to have and how it can be leveraged.
  2. Single point of failure; Creative leaders or managers re-create knowledge and diversify source. Having a single go to person with a lot of knowledge and no evident sharing knowledge transfer mechanism creates potential process stalling or delayed access to project requirements.
  3. Ability to listen; Though simple but very hard to do. Most leaders listen but do not hear. The ability of listen and hear someone must be inclusive of taking innovative opinions and implementing them.
  4. Authority drunkenness; Not something people will worry about too much since the leader or manager has the authority to give directions. But the truth remains, I quote; “Why lead if you don’t have loyal followers that believe in your goal”? Obviously, Mark c Crowley said it all in his book “Leading from the heart” – Leaders who worry about controlling others often end up with health issue most of the time. Wrong people in the right place always worry about the authority of the position versus its output requirement.

2. Entrenchment Factor: I hear this a lot – No, we cannot do it that way because it’s not how we do it or It’s going to cost a lot of money. Sounds like a statement you hear very often – yes, it does sound like what I hear. The idea of if it works don’t fix it continuously truncates basic adoption of Agile best practices by most teams. Below are some of the reasons why entrenchment factor fails Agile teams;

  1. Out dated knowledge: Entrenchment encourages people to remain in a purse in so far as acquiring new skill or knowledge. Usually there is no visible challenge on the job that creates a need for an individual to think more creatively.
  2. Culture positioning: Entrenchment factor walls off ideas and creates a myopic view of problem context as well as late adoption of standard practices. As a result, innovative cultures and ideas is conditioned and boxed into a corner making creativity almost invisible.

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3. Understanding the concept: A lot of teams do agile as against be agile. The idea of agility is focused around mindset, proactivity, creativity and above all collaboration. Agile is not scrum and neither is scrum agile if you follow my drift. Scrum which is the most practiced flavor of agile application is often understood as the center piece of agile thinking but that is far from true. Better put, agile is the practice and principle around aligning people, culture and process to deliver value to the end client while scrum is the model of applying agile thinking. Incrementally developing a solution and having ceremonies like daily standard up doesn’t make teams agile. This misunderstanding of the agile concept greatly limits teams and results in eventually failure of the team.

4. POT (Politics of things): The POT factor continues to plague organizations and decision makers many ways. First, human beings are political animals guided by the idea of interest, perceived shaped by perception and grounded in rational or irrational actions or responses. Decision makers often are clouded in bias when decisions are made around appointments or specific assignments. Take for example, I finished my MBA with a grade point average of 3.67/4.0 and was an excited 20+ year old who wanted to change the world. At the time, I had an opening in my schools which I applied for which I was told the job was not for everybody. Not providing too much detail, the organization lost out on an individual that was dedicated, willing to learn and had the vision or goal to teach in that same school. Over the years, I have tried to understand why I was not evaluated like everyone else and haven been in the corporate world for so long, it never changes. Bias is real and brings out the worst in human beings even when it’s at the cost of the organization. I have seen qualified and innovative minds get relegated and not so innovative minds get placed to make decisions all because of POT. You may not agree with me, but these sentiments are shared even at the team level. Certain individuals viewing others as intellectually inferior and never allow their views to come to light. And even when such ideas are allowed they are treated like not so smart but applaud when presented in a different way by the so-called innovative minds. The POT effect continues to slow down adoption of agile as well as innovation in and around any organization. You will be amazed how deeply rooted the POT effect is in most organization.

5. Ecosystem Readiness: Ecosystem readiness is like holiday preparation in my mind. If you have family and friends coming over there is usually a preparation or arrangement that must happen. Now, a lot of leaders and organizations want to introduce agile but do not have the infrastructure to support the practice. The agile approach or mind set is a known disruptor of the existing. In most cases it changes the entire mindset and approach and requires a receptive ecosystem that is ready. As a n Agile coach, I have come to learn that the practice of agile by a team or in an organization is premised on three key factor that I refer to as the triple As;

• Adopt a mindset
• Adapt to a mindset.
• Accept a mindset.

This in my experience is the roadmap to business agility and is the definition of being agile.
In summary, agile teams fail because of people and the decisions the make. Deciding to be agile is always a clear difference from deciding to do agile.

7 Must Haves for Agile Evangelization

The use of waterfall methodology has typically been the standard for project development and management.

Nonetheless, the spread of agile as a concept began at a time not too long ago as a result of rapidly growing productivity needs and faster product to market delivery requirements. With agile being a framework that reflects on change in mindset, implementing it as a practice requires well-crafted initiatives such as evangelization to derive required result(s).

Agile evangelization as defined by Guy Kawasaki is the act of leading people towards better ways of developing software. He went further to state that evangelism is firmly rooted in what is good for us individuals and organizations alike. But contrary to Guy’s reference to software development, agile evangelization can be defined as the process of structuring and positioning of self-organized team activities to drive better process development, product delivery, and people management through effective leadership and respect for people. In other words, certain components of teams that are self-organized and performing defined activities are required to drive specific results. Such teams require specialized roles of;

  1. Evangelist,
  2. An agile champions
  3. An extended team.

We have used the phrase agile evangelization quite a bit as well as pointed out its roles but what does it mean? In my understanding, agile evangelization can be defined as a stakeholder buys initiative(s) that is aimed at familiarizing a non-agile team, group or individual with the core principles and practices of agile.

In my studies, I identified the following as being the core items needed for a successful agile evangelization;

  1. Leadership approval.
  2. Plan to communicate transparency.
  3. Purpose in Message.
  4. Train and Coach.
  5. Set designated meeting location.
  6. Use radiators.
  7. Create a group for champions.

Leadership approval

Leaders carry influence and as such their approvals hold water. Employees tend to take seriously what their leaders support or voice concerns on. Leadership guidance shields evangelization and introduction of net new initiative(s) into an environment. So, for effective and meaningful evangelization, leadership engagement is critical to the success of such an initiative. Also if there is a leader, people follow as against work for such a person. Leaders sell and deliver on well thought out vision and can earn the trust and confidence of people they lead.

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Plan to communicate transparency

People respond better to change and transformation when there is an understanding of the obvious. In other words, change should be transparent and communicated in lieu of its commencement. As a leader, it is a sole responsibility to ensure all employees understand and are willing to align with an agile evangelization initiative put forward.

Purpose in message

Common sense rules require purpose clarity in message delivery, and so does agile evangelization. Part of communicating an agile evangelization is that supposed adopters of the framework require an understanding, as to how the overall change vision aligns with their existing process. People want to know their place in the change, what does the change means for their role and where they fit in. Clarifying this would advance any agile evangelization initiatives that are brought forward for adoption.

Train and Coach

Train your people and expose them to the concept of agile. In light of the training, there should be reinforcement with coaching as a way of maintaining continuous knowledge transfer. In transitioning from waterfall to agile, evangelization is most crucial as people are usually not fully aware of the agile concept and its practices. As such, training and coaching to reinforce knowledge, plays a key role in maturing people in that environment with the concept.

Designated meeting location: When kicking off an evangelization initiative, ensure there is a designated location for meetings. All participating groups should know of the designated meeting location. An accessible location not too far but centrally positioned will drive participation during knowledge sessions.

Use radiators

Use of information radiators is the best way to keep knowledge flow consistently streaming to agile adopters. Information radiators server as a visual aid and continuously reiterate learning for people who have no prior knowledge of the concept. Designated locations for agile evangelization meetings can always have radiators posted on the walls to visually remind people of the initiative goal.

Create a group for champions

The fifth principle of agile encourages building a team around motivated people. As such, an experienced evangelist would identify, select, train and coach a group of motivated individuals to be champions. Who is an agile champion? What does an agile champion do? After a close review, I concluded that while an evangelist provides and interprets the concept of agile core values and principles, champions reinforce the already defined concept and sell it to non-motivated members on their immediate teams. The point is that people relate to change better when it is from a trusted source.

In summary, agile evangelization is a best practice for introducing agile in non-agile environments. Delineation of roles further breaks down the responsibilities and thus, makes evangelization efforts far more reaching and entrenched in the process DNA of an organization.

Thank you for reading!

Agile and the Internet of Things (IOT)

Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the dynamics of product functionality and delivery as more devices get interconnected over the internet.

According to, there has been an exponential growth in the number of internet users between 1999 -2013 resulting in 40% of the world’s population being connected to the internet. The 40% referred to by is individuals who have access to the internet and not inclusive of personal devices or business equipment. This goes a long way to describe the rate at which interconnectivity would transform access to information and product delivery.

In another report by Gartner, an estimated 6.4 billion devices were connected to the internet in 2016 up 30% from the prior year of 2015. This dramatic increase accounts for over 2.2 billion additional devices being connected to the internet within a space of 1 year according to Gartner reports. Predictions are that an estimated 3.8 billion more devices will be connected to the internet yearly over the next 5 years excluding the 7.3 billion smartphones, mobile and PC devices. This is a stunning statistic that makes a compelling case, for need to have a coordinated approach to business positioning in a complex and uncertain market driven by globalization, competition and regulations Oracle EPLM report.

With the fuzz about IoT, some people remain pessimistic about its proliferation. Some concerns have been about the early adoption around IPv6. In an article by, IPv4 protocol is stretched at the moment as the protocol cannot provide the needed amount of IP addresses needed to support IoT. The argument is that IoT would require more IP addresses than IPv4 can provide. It would nonetheless require innovation and mindset change by companies to adopt this level of change which agile as a framework can do if organizations decide to adapt to its principles. This is another key area of alignment between agile and IoT – the big picture scenario which is the story telling of the current to define the future.

Agile and IoT defined

Internet of Things (IoT):

This brings us to the question, what is the Internet of Things (IOT)? Internet of things (IoT) is best defined as the interconnectivity and operability of devices across a network using a predefined internet protocol.

What is Agile? Agile is a time boxed, iterative approach to software delivery that builds software incrementally from the start of a project instead of trying to deliver it all at once near the end. In my understanding as a proponent of agile, it is a mindset change focused on driving value while aligning three primary components of people , culture and process in any given scenario or environment.

Why internet of things?

Consumers are requiring more specialized and custom products as a result of growing dynamic needs. Businesses on the other hand, have to deliver the right products with the appropriate security and support to the customer. This change in consumer behavior and growing competition can be linked to increased access to information and awareness, advancement in technology and product supply variables of supply and demand. Organizations and businesses continue to innovate on ways to deliver products faster, with more features and functionality to customers using more cost- efficient methods that maximize shareholder benefits but deliver value all the same.

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IoT would mostly be applied in three primary areas of preventive maintenance, Inventory management and process optimization. Censored devices will be used to track machine health, deficiencies in production, create inventory JIT (Just in time) delivery models and reporting on machine performance or error detection. Listed benefits can further provide real time reporting and data driven decision making efforts within an organization.

Agile and Internet of Things (IoT):

The integration of IoT in current processes such as engineering, manufacturing and software development requires a streamlined and value driven framework. IoT relevance to agile is in three primary areas of frequent updates, cycle management and responsiveness to changing requirements.

Relevance of Agile to IoT

One would wonder the relevance of Agile to IoT. With more devices being connected to the internet in the billions, cycle management for both software and hardware is going to become more relevant. That said, an incremental or iterative approach towards deliver would be required.

  1. Frequent update scenario – Applications, hardware devices and infrastructure are crucial components of IoT. With software comes the need for platform to host application and a network infrastructure for onsite and remote connectivity. Integrated systems require security maintenance, patching and updates to functionality and programmatic changes to optimize performance. For an organization to management effective these changing requirements, a value stream in depth understanding and framework is required to drive such granular delivery as faster as possible while making decisions as late as possible.
  2. Cycle management on the other hand creates a schedule for maintenance. According to the Oracle EPLM report, Uniqueness of product design and supply chains has made it imperative for organizations and manufacturers alike to collaborate on maintenance and servicing of products. Product cycle management requires a value chain management system that coordinates and collaborates at all levels from initiation, design, prototyping, product certification, production, customization, delivery and retirement of product.
  3. Being responsive to changing requirements is crucial in today’s business environment. Every organization’s primary objective is to be a premier company in customer service delivery through a well laid out customer satisfaction models. But with growing disruption by technology, responsiveness to requirements is the end-solution for all organizations. Requirement engineering according to enfocus Solutions , is the foundation of software development and arguably forms the bases for subsequent delivery of an entire project. Changing requirements are not typical only to software development but process, people and culture. Organizations require a holistic view on all three elements as it aligns to the business. With so many mouths (businesses) competing for food (customer recognition in the market place), rigidity in the 21st century implies rattling disengagement and subsequent exit.

In summary, IoT is a disruptor of known business models. But alignment of a framework that applies relevant value stream to processes such as agile increases competitive advantage. Sustainability of practices and continuous improvement are fundamental inputs required to scale through competition, regulations and VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complex and ambiguous) markets.

Let’s talk agile!
Thank you for reading!

Return on Value Versus Return on Investment – An Agile Insight

To understand the difference between Return on Value and Return on Investment. We will need to offer you a little primer on the definitions of these concepts.

Return on Value

ROV (Return on Value) is the amount of Value Built In (VBI) that an organization gains as a result of continuous improvement in new and existing people (employees), customer service delivery and platform technology respectively. 

Doug Weaver with Business Insider agrees with the definition and adds a twist, “Return of Value is the total value of how you reward your customers for doing business with you. It’s representative of the ongoing commitment to truly making a difference in the customer’s business, and a proxy for determination, hard work, service, attention to detail, generosity and value creation.”

There are a significant number of ROV measurements. Below are a few ROV examples:

  • Consistent Delivery –delivery of the product or service that can be trusted to be on time with high quality. It also means limiting system downtime for your customers.
  • Networking – adding value to your customer by connecting them with others in your network. Sales people want to control the relationship, but new studies are showing helping your customer build a bigger network to solve problems is of great value.
  • Analysis – Your customers are drowning in data. Give them a summarized analysis that makes that data tell a story.

ROV measurement can be more difficult to define a specific monetary value. ROV is important to growing an organization’s customers and sales. Defining and understanding your organization’s ROV measurements can help project managers direct their project’s solutions or outcomes to continue to meet or exceed those measurements. 

Return on Investment

On the other hand, return on investment (ROI) is the amount of money an investor receives as proceeds from an investment. Traditionally ROI measurements are monetary which is where ROI differs from ROV.

“ROI is a simple and quick objective measurement of a project’s benefit. ROI can get very involved, and less objective if you try to include estimations or unverified monetary benefits. So, keep it simple. Focus on real dollars”, explains Michael Morris from Network World.

ROI calculation is composed of:

  1. The amount you are currently spending (monthly or yearly)
  2. The amount you are planning to spend (monthly or yearly) after the project ends
  3. The amount you need to invest in executing the project

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Let’s look at a simple example. You are currently spending $200,000 on operations per month. After the project ends, you are planning to spend $175,000 on operations per month. The cost of the project is $ 75,000. Your cost savings per month is $25,000. Take the cost savings divided by the project cost, and you get the result of 3.  It will take three months get a return on your investment (ROI).

In the real world, the calculations can get quite complex and difficult to calculate.  The general rule of thumb is to keep it as simple as possible. If you are dusting off those advanced Microsoft Excel functions to make the calculation, you might consider simplifying the calculation. Complex calculations are difficult for business people to understand quickly and easily. The complexity means the greater amount of time you will spend explaining the calculation.

Market Changes are Driving ROV

Return on value (ROV), in my opinion, is the backbone of organizational emancipation. As we move deeper into a customer driven market, investors and business leaders alike should worry about the VBI (Value Built In) engine. Although most may argue that measuring the intangible nature of value may make ROV a difficult KPI to measure, research shows organizations that make ROV a key indicator has recorded more success. These days, the “what “questions do not cut it any longer, but the “why” questions, sure make all the difference when integrated into the strategic business thinking.

Mark C. Crowley is a leadership consultant and speaker, and the author of, “Lead from The Heart: Transformational Leadership for the 21st Century.” Crowley explains how organizations with a value engagement and process tend to maximize returns as a result of continuously streaming value, improving customer satisfaction, growing employee engagement, and working in flexible environments. He pressed further to state that individuals are seeking self-actualization and happiness from work. As such, for organizations to return on investment, it is contingent on employees to be wholly engaged and contributing to the overall goal. After all, the driving force behind organizational success is people. Changing times have led to changing needs, which in turn, have brought about change in how individuals perceive treatment.

No doubt, employees want to work in an environment that makes them feel wanted, recognized and rewarded while having work-life balance. In my discussion with an employee of a company, and I quote “I spend more time at my job than anything else and as such my actualization derives from it” which meant “I depend on my job for a lot of things that are defining” as stated by the employee. This does not mean people are selfish, but rather it underlines the fact that when an individual is on the path to actualization, commitment to and by actualization drivers like work, is very primary.

These days, organizations and business leaders constantly ask “why” at every stage of driving forward towards their vision and goal statements. Technology taking center stage has forever changed consumer perspectives and the spread of information. Globalization and deregulation have increased competition and created overwhelming access for consumers who are looking to compare products before purchase. This has prompted businesses to change their method of engagement. The push to adopt new ways of doing business has created a disruption to most existing business models, but it is a welcome development as it is required to drive profit. Investment return today for any organization, requires appropriate synchronization of all components of sustainable ROV (Return on value) and includes respect for people, the way standards are stipulated and the laid-out method of doing business.

Every organization has to continuously weigh the value proposition in the projects and tasks approved, people performing the task, what problem the solution addresses, and why the solution is viable for the business at the time.

The base for continued ROI (Return on investment) is ROV (Return on value).  That requires a dynamic approach to the driving factors such as people, customer, and technology. No longer would businesses see significant ROI without the required flexibility in adoption, adaptation, and acceptance of a value stream model in business engagement and dealings.

Think ROI! Think ROV!

Agile – A Practice and Principle: My Relocation Account

Coordinated incremental development integrated with a stream of value propositions, has become the hallmark for project implementations.

No wonder! This method of driving project deliverables is being used in various processes and by me for my relocation.

Here is a high-level account of my relocation using the agile methodology and principles starting with a two-week sprint. First, my Sprint included a plan to hash-out what needed to be done, how it was going to be done, resources needed when it was going to be done and specific descriptions of my success criteria for each task completed. I continually performed reviews of my tasks when completed to gauge my definition of done and to ensure a stream of improvement in tasks performance. I performed a one-person stand up in the mornings before going to work to understand the prior task, impediments and what/how fixes that needed to be done to address setbacks. In a nutshell, this was how my agile relocation took place and here is my detailed account starting with Sprint Planning.

My Sprint Planning

As an Agile enthusiast, my curiosity led me to apply agile in my relocation project. As a result, I defined my work by identifying my to-do tasks as followed;

  1. Provide and define a theme
  2. Identified services to transfer and services cancel
  3. Contract negotiations and re-negotiations
  4. Decide duration of the sprint (one week or two weeks)
  5. Create my backlog and add my stories
  6. Tasking my stories
  7. Assigning a budget
  8. Identify additional resources needed besides me
  9. Select and identify needed tools
  10. Manage communication and scheduling
  11. Manage and provide my resources with their needs (food, accommodation, and comfort, etc.)

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You could tell I wore many hats for this project, but the focus of this article is to provide insight on how the planning for each sprint went, what got accomplished and what my takeaway is from applying Agile to my relocation.

Week One – Sprint One

At this point, I was ready to embark on the first sprint once I had tasked my stories and committed to working them. My tasks were categorized as small, medium and large representing the story sizes. Some of the tasks performed included sourcing empty boxes from Walmart to cut cost as suggested by my older sister. I had a task to visit Walmart to collect boxes which had to be done very early in the morning. My sister is always strategic when it comes to cost saving technics, and as such, I stole some few ideas from her. I ended up with more boxes than I anticipated which saved me over a hundred dollars that ordinarily would have been spent on purchasing same items from U-Haul. I also performed a clean out of the old house by identifying things that could be given out and boxed them up. With the clean out done, I organized my belongings one room after the other and categorized each room’s content. At the end of week one, I had already boxed, moved, and set up about 50% of my belongings at the new place while having services situated simultaneously. The idea of moving boxed items whenever I had a service set up at the new location, made it quite easy for me to incrementally perform my tasks. That way, the return in value, cost and time was very significant. It is also worthy of note that, all tasks were time boxed meaning completion of the task was based on story size, commitment, complexity and return on value.

Week Two- Sprint 2

In week two I focused on moving the larger items like chairs, bedroom cabinets, office table, center table, washer, and dryer. Obviously, I called a few favors from some friends to assist with the heavy items. As part of my week two sprint task, I requested for a vacation, made an early reservation for a moving van and set up my security system install for a day before my vacation. As I recall, after work on the day before my vacation, I drove straight to the new place, and the technician showed up exactly 20 minutes after that. Again, I could move and sort my belongings while the technician set up my security system for the house. My refrigerator was delivered on the same day I set up the alarm. In all, I had three major high priority tasks completed in one day.

On the morning of the move, after picking up the reserved van, it took my team of three about 45 minutes to load up the van and another 45 minutes to offload it at the new location. We split the task in a fashion that had resources focusing on areas of strength and proficiency. Judging by my break down, about 85 – 90% of the relocation was managed and completed with no complications. When we did run into issues, the framework allowed great flexibility that in turn put us on track. Though one can never be done with a move within the first week, I could proudly say, the place was livable and well sorted. Agile remains a viable framework for all processes/practices, and I can attest to its relevance to moving.

Summary and Takeaway

In all, here are some points to think about as you plan your next move or process;

  1. Iterative planning and prioritization always provide insight along with needed manageability of tasks
  2. Secondly, care and respect for people is what is needed to drive productivity especially when people are helping you in a process
  3. Always plan for the unforeseen. It is pertinent to be responsive versus reactive as being flexible is a necessary ingredient for agile framework application
  4. Maintain principle and standards. Capacity and velocity management are very critical to agile success. Do not compromise your deliverable by over tasking
  5. Every task should add value that leads to the overall goal or objective
  6. Understand and manage dependencies
  7. Know the strengths of your resources
  8. Convert weaknesses to opportunity