The challenges of adopting the agile culture

The challenges of adopting the agile culture

Being agile is the opposite of being a bureaucrat. We work to deliver value instead of detailed planning

If you ask me for a reference name in agile projects, without thinking twice and without doubt, I will respond promptly to Elvis Presley. Nothing can be more agile than “a little less conversation, a little more action, please.”  Maybe, if Elvis has been present in Utah in 2001, we would have had more five items in the Agile manifesto, and this quote would be first on the list.  Agility is action and objectivity. It is about putting into practice, evaluating the results, and adjusting what is necessary.

Being agile is the opposite of being a bureaucrat, to work seeking valuable deliveries instead of following detailed planning and use emerging techniques instead of following rigorous and standardized processes.  The biggest obstacle in the adoption of agile methods arises when companies adopt practices before seeking the cultural change they can thrive. Consequently, the conflict between practices and incompatible values appear, bringing frustration, and confusion to the ones involved.

The role of an agile leader, for example, is not to ensure the execution of daily meetings, but to help the team to understands the value they bring to the day-by-day so that the team guarantees its execution, and it works for any other practice too. To be an agile leader is to defend an agile culture above methods, tools or some new trends.  It is to understand the aim and practical content implicit in the manifesto and agile principles and to ensure the team also understands them. It is of no use, for example, to follow all the Scrum ceremonies, but to be resistant in accepting late changes requested by the client.  This is not to be agile, but to stage the “Agility’s theater.”

In addition, the agile leader has the challenge of removing or at least mitigating the romanticized ideals around the agile culture. It is about balancing the subjectivity of democracy in the decision-making process with the time invested to reach a conclusion; balancing the adoption of trends, and tools, with the risks of overloading the team; and ensure that the team is engaged with the delivery of a value product to the customer, above being engaged with the faithful execution of some method.

What moves the agile culture is the search for what adds value, even in daily activities. It’s easier to separate what’s agile from what you’re trying to hitchhike in another surfer’s wave by adopting a critical mindset.

Besides all these challenges, the agile leader is the almost paradoxical mission of spreading a way of thinking without ever being pragmatic. In the labyrinths of practice, and culture, agility finds its way when both are present in proportion, and order.

Wagner A. Balabuch

Agile Coach in CINQ Technologies, PMP, CSM

Nine years of experience with software development, working in national and international projects.

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