We asked our Agile Coaches:
"What are common indicators that I’m doing agile wrong?"
And they answered:
In general, there is no THE solution about how to work with agile frameworks, but I would say disregarding the agile values and not aligning to the agile manifesto are the first indicators that something is wrong. I also would advise companies, teams, and individuals to ask themselves, if they just want to go with a “trend” or if they really see the purpose why introducing agile frameworks. When “fake it till you make it” is your motto, then you didn’t understand agile at all. For instance, your company introduces agile methods and “new, agile” processes for your product procurement process. Because now, the company wants to become agile.
Then, after a while, you, as a member of the procurement team, recognize, that you and your team are “looking for loopholes” to circumvent the new, agile processes and ideas on how to procure your products. There are already fixed rules, guidelines, and regulations on how to procure the products, and not following the process rights now but doing it “more agile” by introducing new working processes and structures makes it too complex and complicated for you.
At this point, you know, solving your problem with an agile framework or agile methods doesn’t make sense. This is maybe the time when you know, “doing agile is wrong”.
The core of Agility is “inspect & adapt”. In other words: release as often as possible and collect feedback from the users. If you release less and/or if you do not know your users and do not talk with them, then you will not be agile. Also when you do all the agile methodologies.
Maybe the first misconception is in the question already - if you try to “do agile” you are already at risk of doing it wrong, just considering it yet another methodology to apply. I would rather go for “being agile”, embracing all the fundamental concepts and values before defining any details about the process. Just to give two very concrete examples: I can have a Daily Scrum, but turn it into a meeting where each team member defends and justifies their work to a Team Lead. I can plan my product roadmap using Scrum Sprints, but treat any deviation from the original plan as a mistake. Embracing change and being able to cope with it, on the other hand, is a good indicator of doing it right.
If nothing is set into (mile)stone(s) and you are embracing any change that may occur along the way, then it is already a good sign that you are working agile. It is even better if you are easily able to adapt to the changing circumstances or environment, etc. The alarm bells should ring if any change, even as little as not having any impact at all at the end, is turning into escalation mode and no adaptions or way out is insight. This is clearly a sign of no agility being present nor lived.
Agile is a mindset that takes a while to really get into. Doing it wrong is bound to happen, the best way to correct it is to inspect and adapt often. And the best way to do that would be a temperature check the organization, the project, the company, the team against the agile manifesto. Do you put more emphasis on individuals and interactions or are your focuses on tools and processes? Do you follow a plan or do you respond to changes in the environment? And so on. The mindset isn't easy to change, but shifting more and more, even in small increments, towards agility in a complex environment where Agile works best will put you (back) on the right path.
A common indicator is your weird gut feeling. It occurs when what you are doing is being labeled agile, but does not really feel agile. When the process is not being improved continuously. When the Agile Manifesto is not being followed, for instance, technical excellence (quality) is being put aside to deliver unrealistic scope (quantity). Another example from the Manifesto: when trust is broken. When agile values are inverted, like not putting responding to change over following a plan. When the agile triangle is being misunderstood, and the scope gets fixed together with time and money, while it should remain variable.
If we are into Scrum, similar deviations could happen. When Scrum pillars like transparency are being neglected, and Scrum values like openness are not practiced. When we are doing Story Point Driven Development instead of putting the focus on product value. When we are using ScrumButs: "We are doing Scrum, but..." (actually we are not).
There is something wrong when you don't release at least every 2 weeks. You are missing the opportunity to get feedback from users. What's holding you back? Do you care about user feedback? Are you learning from it? Or are you just trying to build the wrong product faster?
You are doing it wrong when you skip Retrospection! The team has not reached its top, there is still a lot to improve.
Are you adapting your processes to better fit your needs? If nothing has changed over months you are not learning. When you are not allowed to change them, your organization is doing it wrong and is holding you back.
About #AgileSeven: We ask every month our Agile Coaches and will publish on the 7th of each month their answers. Why 7? It is a magic number.