15 Reasons Why Agile Transformations Fail & Fixes to Apply


Agile methodology is all about improving with every iteration. To adopt agile practices in the organization, it has to undergo a metamorphosis-like phase where all the practices and work processes change. This complete change is known as an agile transformation.

15 Common Reasons Why Agile Transformations Fail

But despite all the efforts, 96% of agile transformation fails to adapt to the rapidly changing market and its demands. For successful transformations, you must understand the common reasons for agile transformation.

Here, we’ll discuss 15 common mistakes of agile transformation failure so your organization doesn’t join the failure statistics too. Let’s get started.

Reason #1: Lack of Understanding of True Agile Values

15th State of Agile Report showed that 42% of respondents had marked lack of skill and experience as one of the biggest challenges for agile adoption in larger organizations.

The agile manifesto deals with software development, not business outcomes. This is where many get it wrong. The agile journey is not about creating an environment to push everyone to get things done faster.

Agile practices are more than just a development framework method. You must believe in it and dive into it with the right mindset. This applies to not just the employees but the management too. Trying to put the agile methodology in play without understanding what it truly is causing the transformation to end in failure.

Reason #2: Existing Culture Rejecting Agile

As the earlier section indicates, it’s not just about replacing the organizational structure; it’s about the mindset.

The mindset of an organization defines its culture. When you are adopting an entirely new methodology into your organization, you are breaking down the traditional culture and mindset to bring in something new and unfamiliar.

Throughout the transformation process, you are actively going against the company culture that has been here forever.

This can cause the members to refuse the agile practice while the management tries to implement it, and vice versa. This is where it fails because most senior leaders try to fit agile along with their corporation culture, and they can’t coexist.

Reason #3: Copying The Processes of A Different Organization

Sometimes, in a hurry, an agency will simply try to copy all the processes of an entire organization to adopt agile because they want to be “trendy.” But then, suddenly, everything is crashing and burning down to failure. But why?

Agile isn’t supposed to be copied. It’s supposed to be implemented through continuous improvement via experimentation and finding out what suits the organization the most. No two organizations work the same way, and copying someone else’s work will never bring additional business agility.

Reason #4: Restricting The Agile Team To Pilot Projects

The management team sometimes wants to play it safe. To do so, they limit the agile practices only to the pilot projects instead of applying agile agendas throughout the agency. The mindset here is, “if the pilot project succeeds, that means agile works, and then we can apply it in other departments.”

But this is how agile can fail in most cases. If agile is limited to pilot projects, which are smaller in scale to begin with, the management or the executives fail to see the impact an agency-wide agile adoption could have.

Taking small steps before going big is a good idea, but limiting it hinders progress. Without an agency-wide implementation, the benefits of agile cannot shine properly.

Reason #5: Not Hiring The Right Resources

One of the key characteristics of a winning agile team is to be self-organized. You must also have the right people with the right mindset to have the right team. A simple matter such as not hiring the right people can cause the agile transformation to fail. But why is that?

Agile requires people with a professional mindset to work in agile environments and are welcome to change. Without this mindset, adopting agile transformation on a team level is impossible.

Reason #6: Underestimating The Power Of Communication

Without proper communication, an agency-wide agile transformation journey can come to a halt very easily. The agile manifesto clearly states “individuals and interactions over tools and processes.” But most organizations cannot maintain so.

Most distributed agile teams cannot maintain constant communication with each other properly. Lack of communication causes the teams to go out of sync, and the true concept of agile is lost.

Agile practices require the equal participation of all individuals. When agile is implemented throughout multiple parts of the organization, they all have to work in tandem to keep things going the right way. Lack of communication breaks the pace of agile, and the transformation doesn’t work out in the long run.

Reason #7: Focusing On The Tech Instead Of The Customer

The focus of agile agendas is to focus on the customers and what you can deliver to the customers. But most organizations have it the other way and then focus too much on the technology and the productivity of agile. This is where the transformation fails.

Every product needs a focus for it to take a desirable shape. In the case of agile, the focus needs to be on the customers and their demands. Without a focus on customers, the product loses its vision, and it comes out as something made to reach a lower time to market, not a proper product-market fit.

The agile manifesto focuses on the deliverables more than the process. Focusing on the added productivity to market a product faster goes against the agile product development method while failing the transformation.

Reason #8: Lack Of Support From Upper Management

An agency cannot go through agile transformation on its own all the time. Sometimes they need the right collaboration partner to help them get through the whole process. The transformation awareness should start with the top-of-the-chain management so the path toward becoming an agile organization is more fluent.

When the upper management plans to stick to the traditional method because that’s what they believe will get them the best results, the agile transformation will not work. Another reason for agile transformation failing is the external pressure from stakeholders.

Reason #9: Project-Oriented Approach Instead Of Product-Oriented Approach

Conventional project management systems focus more on getting the project completed within a specific scope of budget and time, so there’s no chance to adapt or improvise in case a new challenge arises.

Agile is about constant innovation and improvisation, not working around the clock to get products out of the door. It’s about creating the best product with the most inventive methods. When the project completion takes priority over the product’s quality, the transformation doesn’t work.

Reason #10: Not Enough Team Participation

Agile team members are what gives the team its true agility. Team participation is the most important when a team wants to adopt agile methodologies. Team participation is not just about working together either.

It’s about everyone having an equal opportunity to provide feedback, to participate in team building exercises to increase their bond to improve work relations and work in better sync. Failing to do so also fails the agile transformation.

Another reason comes from the mental block. When agile transformation kicks in, team members who are still accustomed to the traditional practices refuse to adapt to the new mannerisms, resulting in lower team participation.

Reason #11: Existing IT Infrastructure Does Not Support Agile

Technical debt isn’t just a trendy technical term; this is a very real concept for many organizations. Legacy IT infrastructure can stand in the way of transformations because the decision-making regarding the infrastructure is divided among many other stakeholders within the organization.

Many stakeholders are so used to working with the existing infrastructure that they don’t want to change anything about it, which is required for agile transformation. Since the management cannot change the current structure, which doesn’t support agile transformation, the idea falls flat.

Reason #12: The Leadership Is Impatient

Agile transformation isn’t something that magically becomes effective overnight. Each team members and the team leaders have to be patient and understand the strengths of each individual to deploy them within agile practices the right way.

But the leadership management often doesn’t want to take so much time to experiment to find what’s right. They care about the fastest time for a product to hit the market and expect the most productivity from the team, no matter the methods.

This shallow understanding of the methodology causes the leadership to be impatient and force different methods and additional processes on the teams, causing the agile transformation to be ineffective.

Reason #13: There Is Not Enough Training

Scrum masters play an essential role in implementing agile practices in the workplace. In a work environment where agile is relatively new, an experienced oversight is important to coach everyone in the right direction, and that’s where the scrum master comes in.

Scrum masters are agile coaches. Their job is to teach the best agile practices to the team members, even the team leaders, and the leadership teams so that everyone can do their best to adapt. But sometimes, there is not enough training for the team members to understand the instructions of the scrum master.

Worst case scenario? There is no scrum master, so there is no guidance on what suits the agile manifesto the best. When there are no trained individuals to understand how true agile works, there is no way to make the transformation work.

Reason #14: The Organization Has All The Wrong Beliefs About Agile

While talking about being tech-savvy, advanced, and agile, most corporations are still stuck in the control culture. Agile is all about flexibility and getting creative with every idea. When the management is trying to micromanage everything, the true purpose of agile is lost in the works.

The problem is that most companies only talk about being agile but don’t believe in it. A team leader or a product owner must have confidence in their team and let the team be flexible to work their creativity to implement true agile.

Agile does not happen overnight, either. The teams have to get accustomed to the new culture, and it takes a lot of time to implement so. But since the leadership doesn’t know enough about agile to have the right idea, they continue to control everyone to increase productivity through pressure.

And, of course, there is no way an agile transformation will succeed under these conditions.

Reason #15: Waterfall Is Seeping Into Agile

Some companies try to set up agile to get things done within a certain timeframe and more productivity. And that is exactly how the waterfall method works.

In waterfall methodology, you move on to the next phase of work when the previous stage of objectives has been completed. Companies try to make people work with the speed of agile but progress along a similar to waterfall methods.

This mishmash of different methodologies isn’t perfect agile, and the project ends up being a mess created by rushed work under restraints.

To Wrap It All Up

Agile transformation can bring revolutionary improvements to any organization when implemented correctly. It takes around 1-3 years for a company to implement a truly agile mindset, and it needs a lot of patience as well.

The result of an agency-wide agile transformation is well worth the wait and effort.

What is agile transformation?

Agile transformation is implementing the agile methodology across an entire workplace so the organization can work in an agile environment.

What kind of employees is the best for agile?

For agile, you must look for professional experts who are open to change and are ready to adapt constantly to change while welcoming new ideas.

How can a lack of support from management cause the agile transformation to fail?

Without management support, no department can understand the importance of adopting agile principles and working within a flexible environment, which can cause the transformation to fail.

Can cloud infrastructure support agile transformation?

Since cloud infrastructure offers faster testing, working, and deployment of products, it can support agile transformations.

How long does it take for an organization to undergo a complete agile transformation?

It takes around 1-3 years for a company to become fully agile.