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Agile: Why So Many Organisations Struggle To Make The Transition!

Updated: Feb 29


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Agile methodologies have become extremely popular in recent years, with many organisations looking to adopt Agile principles to become more efficient, productive, and adaptive. Despite the widespread adoption of Agile, many organisations struggle to make the transition. According to some studies, 70 to 80% of Agile transformations fail to meet their objectives or produce the desired outcomes. It should be noted that these estimates are high and should be taken with a relatively large pinch of salt, as the definition of "failure" depends on the size of the organisation, the industry sector, commitment, and the level of support from senior management.


The top four reasons why many organisations struggle to make the transition include:

  1. Lack of senior management support: The transition to Agile ways of working is often a middle management initiative: Without endorsement and support from senior management and top-level executives, Agile adoption can be challenging and limited, as the organisation’s culture and practices may reward non-Agile milestones while inadvertently discouraging Agile success. A lack of executive support and a strong corporate culture not accustomed to the Agile mindset can be a difficult environment in which to implement Agile methods, consequently, the transformation fails due to employee resistance.

  2. Resistance to change due to lack of management transparency: Change is always difficult. Agile transformations require significant changes to the way an organisation operates. Employees may resist these changes, if they have become comfortable with their current processes (why fix what isn’t broken, right?), or they think the catalyst for change is due to a lack of trust. Management teams, especially those in large organisations tend to have a 'do as I say' attitude, and seldom explain the drivers for change thus discouraging 'buy-in' and making the transition much more difficult than might otherwise be the case.

  3. Lack of Agile awareness and understanding: Many organisations are impressed by the numerous reports and online articles on the advantages of Agile delivery and all the improvements they can expect in terms of speed of delivery, quality of outcome and most importantly, reduced costs; but pay little attention to the possible challenges. They embark on their Agile journey with little or no understanding of what Agile delivery is, or what it entails, leading to confusion and frustration, as employees are asked to adopt new practices without proper training or support.

  4. Insufficient Training: Transitioning to Agile ways of working is a complex process that requires extensive training (and not just at the coal face) to ensure employees of all levels fully understand it and are able to apply it effectively. When companies maintain a non-Agile framework whilst trying to shoe-horn in Agile practices, they often end up accomplishing far less at a greater cost. Organisations that do not provide their employees with sufficient training will likely struggle with the transition.


There are many more reasons why organisations struggle to make the transition, and whilst some organisations may struggle, many others have successfully navigated the journey, have adopted Agile and have seen significant improvements in their processes, productivity, and overall business outcomes. With proper planning, support and training, organisations can successfully adopt Agile principles. By understanding the challenges and proactively addressing them, organisations can increase their chances of Agile success, and ensure their transformation is a positive and transformative experience for all involved.


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