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January 14, 2022

Agile, a buzz word in the software industry, is one of the most efficient approaches in the recent times to develop a software. This methodology enables software development by making quick learning-oriented iterations and prioritizing customer requirements, while ensuring quality. When the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the adoption of agile ways of working became the yardstick of an organization’s success.

While many of the organizations successfully adopted it and ingrained agile principles in their work culture, some failed to evolve. The organizations that successfully adopted agile saw great results in terms of quality, end-customer satisfaction, and faster time to market. However, the organizations following strict processes were reluctant to adopt agile, which they feared to be subjective and unpredictable due to lack of concrete processes or formal documentation.

The inability to properly adopt agile methodology made development teams more fragile than agile. Unclear responsibilities burnt out team members, inter-departmental collaboration issues, never ending roadmaps, and unclear vision were some of the common indications of a failed attempt.

Management against leadership

A common trait demonstrated by the successful organizations is their ability to streamline efficiency with experience. The driving factor for this efficiency is an organizational structure, where management plays a pivotal role. A manager in a traditional organization plays the role of a coordinator and supervisor. In contrast to a manager, a leader in an agile setup is a facilitator who drives the agile culture, leads by example and thrives on collaboration rather than organizational hierarchy. However, agile does not obviate the role of managers. The clash between the old organizational hierarchy and the agile role leads to several challenges for traditional organizations, leading to a collapse in their agile team structure. However, this can be avoided by endorsing extensive team structuring exercises.

Task against vision

The traditional organizations generally have large teams with each of the members performing dedicated tasks assigned to them, one at a time, enabling managers to monitor the work.

On the other hand, agile endorses flow of information and ideas rather than identifying and assigning tasks. An agile work environment encourages creativity where team members can freely share their thoughts and ideas. It naturally involves self-forming teams, where the team members have a common vision and a clear idea of how they can contribute towards it. When task assignment creeps in gradually, it distorts the core idea of agile.

Formal communication against efficient collaboration

Traditionally, teams focus on formal communication through documents, e-mails, and so on due to the established culture of written communication. However, traditional ways of communication are not always effective. The agile way of working recommends leveraging collaboration platform tools, applications, and in-person communication for expediting progress. Teams adopting agile at a grass root level need to nurture collaboration and trust among their members. This approach boosts the team’s morale and openness, bringing efficiency in operations.

Congregation against Focus

The agile methodology recommends focused meetings with a specific agenda, which are strictly timeboxed. This enables increased participation, quality conversations and better decision making. The tendency to dilute the agenda of meetings with an intent to do more in less time is a common pitfall. Traditional meetings with large congregations and diverse objectives need to be avoided.

Responsibility against ownership

In the traditional style of working, team members are entrusted with some tasks irrespective of their interest areas. This style of working is detrimental to an agile team. The agile team members feel a sense of ownership and take pride in their contribution towards a common vision. A switch from the traditional to an agile mindset can alter an employee’s attitude towards work, which in turn can profoundly boost an organization’s performance.

Encouraging experimentation

The agile culture encompasses experimentation, exploration, acceptance of failure and a corrective mechanism as an iterative process, while stressing on the importance of timely and quality deliverables.

Traditional against agile culture

The preceding pitfalls are nothing but consequences of traditional organizational culture. The organizations need to understand that the agile way of working is intrinsic and is not just about achieving targets. Significant cultural changes, across an organization, rooted in openness, transparency, courage, and mutual trust serve as the stepping-stones to a successful agile adoption.

Striking the balance

Agile can be a successful way of organizing people and projects, but it is not a panacea for project management. The organizations aspiring to adopt agile must be clear on how well they can tailor it according to their needs without compromising their values. Teams must be committed to undergo a significant cultural metamorphosis driven by a clear vision, with an inclination towards collaboration and experimentation. A paradigm shift driven by a strong leadership is the recipe to transform a traditional team into an agile team, without making it fragile.

Yugesh Avadhanula is a Solution Architect, currently working on TCS MasterCraft™ TransformPlus, which is an automated modernization and rapid application development platform that helps enterprises in their digital journey without business disruption. He has over 14 years of industry experience including Java based product development, model driven engineering, Cloud architecture and DevOps. He holds a Bachelor of Technology from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University and a Master of Sciences from BITS Pilani.

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