5 Red Flags of an “Agile Imposter”

Oct 25, 2022

The Risks of Trusting an “Agile Imposter”

Many organizations are finding themselves in an “agile imposter” situation. They may have made a huge investment in training and coaching, they are using all the lingo, and they are performing the well-known processes and ceremonies. However, they are not getting the intended outcomes and their employees are unsatisfied.

The best thing about a mistake is the hard lesson that often comes from it – and there are a lot of things that can be learned from some of the most-talked-about agile imposter stories. As stated in a previous blog post, Agile framework is a mindset that can be misunderstood and can have severe pitfalls. Read on to the top five patterns we see across all industries that contribute to this situation – and avoid making those same mistakes.

1. Lack of test automation and infrequent integration practices.

Some organizations continue to view the investment in test automation as costly and slowing down development progress, but the consequence is excessive, repetitive hours of manual testing, lower quality, and late identification of critical defects that are then harder to untangle. Infrequent integration of code, or a lack of Test-Driven Development (TDD), means the team never really knows how “done” their work is – it delays the quick feedback cycle that should be happening to uncover integration issues with other functionality and teams. Together, these 2 anti-patterns lead to failing at delivery predictability which is one of the coveted outcomes of agile practices.

2. Teams do not receive continuous feedback from users and customers.

There are too many assumptions that the initial feedback discovery was detailed enough and team execution should be the new focus. This is a costly and painful mindset. Fast feedback is a key value in agile – we should always be confirming with appropriate internal and external stakeholders that the progressing functionality is meeting or surpassing the desired business value. When we avoid this, we will create waste and rework. Too often, we see teams mechanically conducting the process of demos with poor attendance or with an audience that could not possibly provide the most accurate feedback.

3. Teams do not have dedicated resources.

It can feel good to share resources. If X developer is the best, then he can support multiple teams. If we don’t have enough of a specific skill, they can support multiple teams… right?

Wrong! In A Coach’s Guide to Spreading Agility through the Enterprise, one of our premiere agility coaches Rodger Koopman discusses how these teams struggle to ever understand their true capacity because resources are spread way too thin. An organization should know the “why” behind the SAFe® transformation process and dedicate resources on the team level to a specified team who will then produce a specified result.

4. We only need to be agile at the team level.

The teams are highly impacted by the ecosystem around them. In order to ensure the teams are aligned with the highest value priorities, an organization must commit to a concept like Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) to ensure priorities are refreshed frequently, communicated at all levels of the organization, and align agile business processes with capacity. Too frequently, we see organizations that only focus on the engineering organization instead of forming the appropriate collaborative, agile journey with the product organization.

5. C-suite leaders don’t entirely understand their role in the agile journey.

As stated before, an organization should know the “why” behind their Scaled Agile transformation and the same applies to its executives. Leadership needs a crash course in what outcomes they should expect, the why, and how those outcomes are supposed to happen. Executives need to know their role in supporting, leading indicators they should be on the lookout for, and how they should be measuring success.

Getting Back On Track

It’s undeniable that any Agile transformation carries a certain measure of risk along with it. Jumping in bed with an “agile imposter” can result in millions of dollars down the drain, lost customers, and even courtroom battles. But this doesn’t happen to everyone. Learn to spot these red flags to protect your business from throwing away your hard-earned investment.

For a helping hand to accelerate your agile transformation or if you think you are working with an imposter, look no further than ICON Agility Services. As the first leading Scaled Agile Network partner, we are a premier agile consulting firm with over 30 years of expertise in providing SAFe transformation services and expert talent solutions. Get in touch with us today to ensure that your transformation is red flag free!

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