Failing With Agile

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Presentation for Mile High PMI Workshop on November 15, 2008 …

Presentation for Mile High PMI Workshop on November 15, 2008


There are always people who want agile projects to fail. This will probably be the case until agile is the preferred process methodology used for projects. Are you one of them? In this workshop Bob Hartman will give participants a how-to guide for causing agile process failure. Attendees will learn various failure modes and how to cause them. There will be group discussions and exercises exploring how the failure modes can manifest themselves in real projects. At the end of this workshop each attendee should have the ability to cause agile project failure in a variety of ways and under a variety of conditions.

Obviously the first paragraph is a bit tongue-in-cheek. Hopefully project managers do not want agile projects to fail, but they need to know how they could fail. This knowledge will translate into an ability to recognize the failure modes and take corrective action. Interestingly, many of the agile project failure modes are also failure modes in other project process methodologies. All project managers on agile projects or in organizations that are considering using an agile process should attend this workshop. Project managers in organizations which typically struggle with projects may also gain insight into their project failure modes.

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  • Is 50% even any good? Don’t we want to be a lot better than that?
  • What are some examples
  • The process allowed it – rules of engagement
  • Communication overhead is ridiculous
  • Knowledge is power – command and control’ish
  • You will fall further and further behind – remember doing the right thing wrong


  • 1. Failing with Agile:A How-to Guide
    Don’t end up with an apple instead of an Apple®!
    Presented byBob HartmanPresident, Agile For
    Presentation Copyright © 2008, Agile For All, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • 2. Before We Start
    Cell phones, pagers, PDA’s, etc. to silent
    If you have a question, please ask it. Don’t wait! It is better to answer the question while we are still in the same area than to go back.
    We will take a break after about 90 minutes
    Failing with Agile
  • 3. Introductions
  • 4. Bob Hartman (Agile Bob)
    30+ years of software industry experience
    Certified Scrum Practitioner
    Bachelor and Masters degrees in Computer Science
    Roles included Tester, Developer, Dev Manager, QA Manager, Product Manager, Project Manager, VP…
    Started with agile in 1999
    Failing with Agile
  • 5. Who are you?
    Please introduce yourself including:
    Company and role
    Agile experience
    Failing with Agile
  • 6. Framing the problem
  • 7. Software project success rates
    Source: The Standish Group
    Success increasing by 1.7% per year. Will not reach 50% until 2014!
    Failing with Agile
  • 8. Industry realities
    Most “successful” projects were deliberately over-estimated at the start (Standish – 2001)
    The average project exceeds its schedule by 63% (Standish – 2001)
    50% of project failures are due to missing or misunderstood requirements (Ravenflow – 2006)
    Executive support and customer involvement are the two biggest critical success factors in project success by far (many studies in the past 10 years)
    Failing with Agile
  • 9. More industry realities
    56% of defects are attributable to missing or misunderstood requirements
    82% of defect fixing time and dollars go to fixing requirements related defects
    NIST has estimated that 0.6% of the GDP is lost due to software defects
    NIST also estimates that 1/3 of that money could be saved by using a process allowing earlier detection and correction of defects
    Failing with Agile
  • 10. Things I sometimes ponder…
    Why do we make all important decisions on projects when we have the least information?
    Why do managers always think things will take less time than everyone else? Why do we let them estimate at all?
    Why has the software industry never improved the ability to estimate accurately?
    If we know that an average of 30% of requirements will change during a project, why do we use a process that is intolerant to change?
    Why do companies say that quality is important while internally they give QA less time than originally allocated to do their job?
    Why do developers always do the easiest things first?
    If the customer is always right, why do we only ask them their opinion AFTER we have completed the entire project?
    Failing with Agile
  • 11. Doing the right thingbut doing it wrong
    But this is supposed to work!!!
  • 12. Getting things to “done” – sort of!
    Iteration 1 – coded and tested! 
    Iteration 2 – coded and tested! 
    Iteration 3 – coded and tested! 
    Iteration 4 – coded and tested! 
    Where’s the problem?
    No regression testing – “done” for an iteration means all previous testing passes as well! The above scenario leads to:
    Final validation testing – FAILS! 
    Failing with Agile
  • 13. Identifying tasks – but not all of them
    Failing with Agile
  • 14. The daily stand-up of death
    Yesterday I did that, today I’ll do this, nothing blocking me. Next…
    Failing with Agile
  • 15. Inadvertent sabotage
    Hurting by helping!
  • 16. Working ahead
    I know we are only initeration 1, but I did story3 and knew that story 322depended on it, so I did thatone too! Cool huh!
    Failing with Agile
  • 17. The return of command and control
    I thought agile was supposed to empower us?!?
    Failing with Agile
  • 18. Hmm, how should I do this?
    I don’t really know how to solve this, but that’s ok, I’ll just think like a customer
    Good developers will try to think like a customer – THEN they will make the wrong decision!
    Failing with Agile
  • 19. Invite complexity
    Mr. Product Champion, which way should I go?
    It doesn’t affect the user, so pick either!
    Complex – Yeah!
    Failing with Agile
  • 20. Small Group Exercise
    Describe inadvertent sabotage you have experienced. What were the results and how it was first detected?
    Failing with Agile
  • 21. Failures caused by management
  • 22. Lack of sufficient agile training
    Dilbert knows agile! 
    Or, maybe not 
    Failing with Agile
  • 23. Asking “How are we doing?”
    Hey George, how are we doing?
    Apparently executives and managers have no eyes!
    Failing with Agile
  • 24. Early hiccup = total failure
    See! Iteration 1 wasn’t perfect. I told you agile wouldn’t work!!!
    Failing with Agile
  • 25. Seeding doubt
    Psst. Be careful. I’m pretty sure this agile stuff will fail.
    Failing with Agile
  • 26. Always follow the chain of command!
    I don’t care if it worked. This is the org chart and you should have asked me (even if it would have taken 5 extra days).
    Let’s make some spaghetti to show this in action!
    Failing with Agile
  • 27. Small Group Exercise
    List a few different forms of management failure you have experienced and what happened.
    Failing with Agile
  • 28. Failures caused by Waste
  • 29. What is waste?
    Anything that does not add value!
    Meetings, research that is never utilized, unfinished code, untested code, undocumented/unusable features…
    What else?
    Failing with Agile
  • 30. Building what you don’t need
    Question: What percentage of software features are NEVER used?
    Failing with Agile
  • 31. Poor requirements gathering technique
    Failing with Agile
  • 32. Building infrastructure first
    Slices = less
    work to do
    Layers = All
    work done
    Which is easier to change?
    Failing with Agile
  • 33. Being dogmatic about process
    Agile says we have to have daily stand-ups. It doesn’t matter that part of the team is in Sri Lank 12.5 time zones away!
    Failing with Agile
  • 34. Small Group Exercise
    What are some types of waste in your organization that you can start to eliminate immediately?
    Failing with Agile
  • 35. Team failure modes
  • 36. Play the blame game
    It’s your fault!
    Failing with Agile
  • 37. It’s ok to move things to the next iteration
    This didn’t finish, so move it from iteration 1 to iteration 2, no 3, I mean 4.
    Failing with Agile
  • 38. Teams that are too large
    Will this stand-up ever end?
    Failing with Agile
  • 39. Make silos even deeper
    Testers vs. DevelopersIs anyone a team member any more???
    Failing with Agile
  • 40. Poor communication
    Failing with Agile
  • 41. Not my job
    See, right there it says it isn’t my job to do that!
    It’s not my fault the team failed the iteration because I didn’t press “Run”
    Failing with Agile
  • 42. Small Group Exercise
    Even successful teams are held back in many ways by the way they do things. What “failures” are your current teams dealing with today?
    Failing with Agile
  • 43. Product Champion based failures
  • 44. Keep the plan in your head…
    Don’t ever tell anyone else what the plan is. That way they need to rely on you, right???
    Failing with Agile
  • 45. Be efficient – have more than one role
    It’s great being a team member, Scrum Master and Product Champion! All have to bow to me!!! Oh, and all my stuff gets done first – sweeeeeeet!
    Failing with Agile
  • 46. Testing failures
  • 47. Confusing unit tests and acceptance tests
    Business Facing
    Acceptance Tests
    Business Intent(Design of the Product)
    When possible
    Support Programming
    Critique Product
    During Iteration
    Response, SecurityScaling,…
    Unit Tests
    Developer Intent (Design of the Code)
    Technology Facing
    from Brian Marick
    Failing with Agile
  • 48. Testing at the end of an iteration
    Code Freeze
    Day 10
    Day 1
    Day 2
    Day 3
    Day 4
    Day 5
    Day 6
    Day 7
    Day 8
    Day 9
    Q: What are developers doing during the testing period?
    Failing with Agile
  • 49. Coding in one iteration, testing in the next
    Each tester
    40% of time writing tests for current iteration
    20% of time running tests for current iteration
    40% of time regression testing
    Iteration 1 this tester has 40% slack time
    Iteration 2 this tester has 20% slack time
    40% writing new tests, 20% running new tests, 20% running tests from iteration 1
    Iteration 3 this tester has 0 slack time
    40% writing new tests, 20% running new tests, 20% running tests from iteration 1, 20% running tests from iteration 2
    Iteration 4 we can no longer complete all testing!
    This is most often caused by dependence on manual testing
    Failing with Agile
  • 50. Lack of automated testing
    Failing with Agile
    Regression Deficit Disorder
  • 51. Group discussion
    What testing challenges currently exist in your organization?
    Failing with Agile
  • 52. Failures due tolack of trust
  • 53. Measure inappropriately
    You will get what you measure!!!
    DILBERT: © Scott Adams/Dist. by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.
    Failing with Agile
  • 54. The “no power” Product Champion
    I know you told the team to do that, but I’m your manager and I think it’s wrong, so change it!
    Failing with Agile
  • 55. Agile in name only
    Here is the scope and the date, now be agile and deliver it all on time!
    Failing with Agile
  • 56. Micromanagement
    This project is important and as CTO, I want to make sure we’re measuring up every day!
    Failing with Agile
  • 57. Process failures
  • 58. Changing process before it is understood
    This is a simple process, why do we need to meet each day to discuss things?
    Failing with Agile
  • 59. Lack of commitment to improvement
    Woohoo! A new record! That retrospective only took 2 minutes!!!
    Failing with Agile
  • 60. Watching metrics, not the people
    Great job! Another successful iteration.
    Failing with Agile
  • 61. Fixing failure
  • 62. Small Group Exercise
    Talk about some fixed failures and how they were fixed. Talk about some failings that are not yet fixed and what might be done to fix them.
    Failing with Agile
  • 63. Agile Expectations
  • 64. What others are seeing
    Failing with Agile
  • 65. VersionOne Survey Results (2008)
    Survey asked people: Please try to estimate SPECIFIC IMPROVEMENTS you have actually realized from implementing Agile practices.
    Source: VersionOne 2008 State of Agile Development Survey
    NOTE: All 2008 data is within 2% of 2007 data implying these numbers are not one-time anomalies
    Biggest causes of company-wide agile failure:
    Company philosophy or culture could not be overcome – 23%
    Lack of experience with agile – 21%
    Failing with Agile
  • 66. Agile is a Proven ApproachSome Agile Companies (there are MANY more)
    Failing with Agile
  • 67. Resources
  • 68. Places to go for help
    My website!
    Agile Alliance (
    Agile Project Leadership Network (APLN –
    Yahoo Groups
    PMI Agile (pmiagile) – giving direction to people that will be responsible for the Agile PMI Virtual Community to be formed in 2009
    Agile Denver (agiledenver)
    APLN Denver (apln-denver)
    Failing with Agile
  • 69. Retrospective
  • 70. Help me out!
    I’m doing this again at the PMI Mile Hi Symposium in March 2009 and I want to make sure it is as good as possible!
    What went well?
    What went less well?
    How can I improve things next time?
    Failing with Agile
  • 71. Final questions?
  • 72. Thank you!
    Please fill out evaluation forms
    Get on my mailing list if you want to receivea PDF of this presentation via email