Agile Methodology has given amazing results for many organizations, but it is failing for many. Is this an implementation gap or force fit?
Imagine you have planned to travel to a place. You have done all your preparations. Your bags are ready, you have planned out things. Now when you leave for your travel, you would definitely want to check the fastest possible route. Say in that 4-hour drive, if midway you figure out that there is an accident or a jam, would you change the destination, or would you course correct your journey?
Various Types of Organizations
There are three different sets of Organizations who have faced a similar situation and here’s how the decision would impact
Type A – Ready to course correct and Keep moving.
Type B – Not sure of their destination and would move as others are moving.
And Type C – Would persist with the same path irrespective of their destination.
In the above classification, Type C, are the organizations who still persist with the idea of waterfall model of development and are not ready to course correct. This approach may work when you have limited or no competition and have a decent customer base. In a hyper-competition era, this strategy may not be sustainable. In the analogy of driving, in a low traffic highway, it is fine if you go at your pace, but you need to steer through faster in a high traffic area.
Type B is even more dangerous. Startups these days come up with a brilliant solution to a small part of a larger problem. They may do a wonderful job with the solution to an identified problem. Many organizations post initial success do not know what next. And in this process, they end up doing anything and everything they see in the market or the customer expects or what competition does.
Here is an interesting twist, Type A may not succeed as well. For the organizations who are agile and are ready to course correct, it may work well at some point only. There are examples of Google plus, Windows Vista and Fire phone, which were innovations these companies tried and failed.
Off late what we have seen is the business is moving faster than ever before. Need for delivering faster is growing rapidly. Time to market is shrinking. And obviously over and above all this, there is growing competition and pressure from the investor community as well. Most companies in this process have adopted agile. The challenge is that most of them do not evaluate whether Agile is a good fit or not.
Many organizations follow Agile methodology because Agile allows them to course correct. If something did not work out change it. This goes on even to the depth of changing requirements in the middle of a sprint.
Dave Thomas, co-founders of Agile, in an article, slammed this approach and mentioned that agile is dead. The key idea with Agile is that it allows the scope of innovation in a smaller window. So if you compare, waterfall model would allow you to define the whole process in one go and you might continue to work on the same for months or years. Effectively waterfall does not leave much scope for course correct or Innovate. With Agile, you have the scope to take up a potentially huge impact feature in the very next sprint.
Effectively for any organization, the choice is between delivering a good product late to the market or deliver a smart product early on and then keep doing changes incrementally. We have seen far too many success stories like Whatsapp where the early mover advantage did the trick and helped the organization scale up later.
Many organizations do a great job in following the agile methodology of Scrum and sprint etc but do Not have true cross-functional teams. This I believe is a definite trouble-maker, since again your time to market would be impacted. For e.g. you have all Devs and QCs together but deployment team is separate. In such cases, Dev and QC might get all the job done but, deployment team is completely unaware and unprepared. Hence having truly cross-functional teams is a must.
Waterfall or Agile?
Basically Agile is here to stay and believe it or not Waterfall model of development may survive in the DNA of many organizations. There is no one shoe fit all strategy. A strategy for an organization might work well at a point in time with Waterfall but with another project at the very same time may not go well with waterfall model. Like you would steer your car in time for the right place at the right time, you need to choose which road is correct for your reaching their market at right time and at timely interval do you need to course correct as well. Hence choose wisely, and keep evaluating regularly on what is the right fit for your organization.
Also Read – This one thing will help you prioritize better