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Seven Deadly Sins of Agile

07-Nov-2013 15:00:00 Consulting
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I am often asked about Agile War Stories which made me think about the things that really impede agile transformations or just agility. Actually calling it ‘Agile’ can create high resistance in some organisations!

So, in no particular order my two penneth on agile disenablers (I think I just made this word up).


Procurement can not only impede agility it can kill agility! Imagine a situation where

you have lost a budgeted resource but can’t replace
you need to spin up a new server but can’t buy a new license
you need to install Skype but you can’t upgrade your PC
you want to visualise your Information Radiator but you can’t buy a whiteboard
and even if you have the whiteboard you can’t but the pens
Extreme? No actually real life! At every turn where you want to make a difference and react swiftly the procurement guys/gals say NO.

Product Owner

The most successful agile projects I have observed are where there has been an active Product Owner displaying all the DARKA characteristics:

D esire
A utthority
R esponsibility
K nowledge
A vailability

Having someone on the business side who has the time and inclination to work with the team is critical; in fact I would say, don’t start an agile project without one because you are setting yourself up to fail.

Technical Practices

Can you be agile without good technical practices? Yes. Can you be hyper-productive without good technical practices? No!

Moreover you cannot scale agile on crappy code, without collective code ownership and continuous integration – period, no debate!

Just Do It

A common agile myth is that you throw out everything you have done before and just do it! No planning, no documentation just start hacking code.

Well that’s Fragile which more often than not leads to Tragile!


One of my biggest hobby horses is self-sustaining agile adoptions. So many times I have seen external consultants support an agile adoption only for the programme to fall about its ears when the external consultant leaves or the money runs out!

How does that help the organisation when the Agile Coach becomes an Agile Crutch?

It might be a counter-intuitive business model but surely the role of the external agile coach is to make himself/herself redundant; to leave behind a legacy of continuous improvement whereby the teams and the organisation can continue on their agile journey.

Instant Benefit

Another common myth is that agile gives you instant benefit – eer no!

So, I have this failed process whereby I don’t get what I want on time or budget and when I do get it, it’s the wrong thing. So I want this agile thing and I need you to demonstrate that it works in 2 weeks!

Yeah right!

Important to manage expectations; initially we need to set some foundations (and yes we still do that) and the first couple of sprints may not be that successful, especially for a team(s) new to agile.

The executive sponsorship needs to be engaged, demanding but realistic otherwise another uphill struggle will ensue


The mother-ship of all agile impediments – actually not my quote!

A bit harsh? Well it depends.

A PMO that is steeped in governance that adds no value then absolutely! Gated controls are great provided they add value – have the requirements been signed by the Business, has the design been signed by the CTO, have you produced your weekly report, have you correctly RAG your Risks and issues. Mother-ship!

But a PMO that has made both the cultural and mindset shift to agile can be a huge enabler.

To be honest I am sure there are more deadly sins and I would be really interested in your comments

Darren Wilmshurst

Director and Head of Consultancy


Darren Wilmshurst

Darren Wilmshurst

With his strategic C-suite-oriented approach to IT leadership – and his infectious energy – Darren has successfully delivered multi-million pound business transformations for e-commerce sites, ERP implementations, outsourcing and offshoring, including multiple Agile transformations. Read more