9 problems holding your Agile team back

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Agile product development offers a wealth of benefits when implemented wisely, but many teams find themselves tripping over the new methodology. Before you give up and run back to waterfall development, or accept the problems as part of the process, make sure you look for and eliminate these common issues.

Flaws in your team structure

A poorly considered or ill-defined team structure leads quickly to wasted effort in Agile development. Many companies jump into an Agile management framework with little to no understanding of what an effective team looks like.

Some start with errors at the most basic level, such as failing to assign different people as Scrum Master vs Product Owner. Make sure you understand each role in an Agile team structure and assign those roles accurately, or you’ll have trouble before you even begin.

Communication problems

Without adequate communication, Agile development is doomed to failure. That’s why clear, useful communication within the team and with others outside of the team is critical.

The tools, procedures, and culture surrounding your Agile development process all need to facilitate the smooth flow of information where it needs to go.

Lack of customer feedback

Agile development without customer feedback can lead your product in weird directions; too insular, too inside the team’s headspace, the product may feel perfect internally but perform extremely poorly in the wild.

You don’t want your product to evolve without conflict or pushback; like an isolated animal evolving on an island with no predators, it won’t have what it takes to make it in the real world.

No buy-in from your team

Many of the problems with Agile development stem from a failure to get your team on board with the core concepts of the process. Get everyone on board in advance by explaining the benefits—preferably with hard facts and examples relevant to your own development history.

Skipping the retrospective

Reflection is built into the core of Agile development for a reason; don’t ignore the Agile retrospective or treat it as a suggestion. You and your team need to sit down after each development and review successes, failures, and why they happened across different iterations.

Inadequate planning

Agile development doesn’t mean guess and check or rushing ahead without any plan in mind. A product owner should make sure the team understands the end goal for product development early in the process, lest they waste multiple iterations on wasted endeavors.

Heavy-handed management

Your team won’t be able to offer up peak performance if you insist on strong leadership from the top on every subject. If you need insight and approval from the top on every single aspect of product development, agility isn’t going to be an option.

As long as you’ve built your team wisely and established the right approaches to reflection, communication, and customer feedback, your team members should be self-sufficient.

Poor meshing with company structure

An Agile team in a company which hasn’t adopted Agile practices can lead to any number of problems. That’s not to say you cannot have an Agile team in a company which largely works at a different pace, should Agile development be appropriate for one product type but not another—but you need to understand and account for these potential incompatibilities. 

Doubt

There are aspects of Agile development which can feel wrong or counter-intuitive if you’ve come up in a waterfall development environment. Many teams end up falling back on old standbys from the waterfall process out of doubt or distrust. This hybridization of the development processes doesn’t give you the strengths of both; it just gives you a sluggish mess.

Parting thoughts

Agile success is all about using the system as it is meant to be used, rather than adopting pieces of it without a thorough understanding of why the system works that way. Take your time, do your homework, and Agile will work for you.

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