We have limited Spanish content available. View Spanish content.

Doing Agile Wrong

Back to Ask the Authors

Q: Why Did You Call Your Book Doing Agile Right? How Are Companies Doing Agile Wrong?

Author Darrell Rigby responds: This is a great question. We have a top 10 list of abuses and misuses that threaten Agile’s success.

  1. A euphemism for layoffs

    Large, abrupt, chaotic layoffs are not Agile transformations. Agile does increase productivity—but through systematic process innovations, not blunt-force firings.

  2. Do what I say faster

    When authoritarians use Agile as one more club to bludgeon people into speedier subservience, they undermine the whole concept.

  3. Big bang transformations

    Too often, executives go behind closed doors for six months, emerge with a grand restructuring plan, command and control its execution, and then claim to have an Agile organization. It’s far better to use Agile testing and learning processes to build Agile organizations.

  4. Copycat Agile

    Copying an Agile pioneer sounds easy, and copying its organizational chart seems easiest of all. However, similar charts deliver dissimilar results under different leaders, strategies, management systems and cultures. Moreover, in trying to shortcut the process, copycats fail to develop critical skills for adapting, customizing and harmonizing all the elements of an operating system.

  5. Agile everywhere

    Many assume—incorrectly—that to become an agile organization, everyone must work in Agile teams. Typically, about 10% to 20% of employees should be dedicated to Agile innovation teams.

  6. Bungling business definitions

    Agile zealots often break up business units and replace them with Agile teams. This approach destroys profit-and-loss accountability and damages performance.

  7. Delegating Agile

    When senior executives fail to exemplify Agile ideals, delegating Agile transitions to program managers and subordinates, business results are consistently disappointing.

  8. Annual cycles and slow decisions

    No business should design key processes such as planning, budgeting and reviewing cycles around how long it takes Earth to orbit the sun. Agile breaks long cycles into shorter, tighter feedback loops that accelerate adaptation.

  9. Inept, inconsistent practices

    Too many teams are Agile in name only. Team members multitask, refuse to develop roadmaps and fail to test prototypes. Then managers wonder why Agile is struggling.

  10. Demoralizing operations

    Agile teams have noble missions, but so do frontline operators. Operation and innovation are complementary, interdependent, mutually beneficial capabilities.

Our goal is to stop abuses like these before they drive Agile to the scrap heap of management manias.