Three recurring error patterns in agile management

Scrum is an incredibly exciting and versatile framework that has helped thousands of projects succeed. But Scrum is also a framework that has its pitfalls and challenges. Depending on how you use it, Scrum as a management framework can be a perfect fit for your project, or it can present stumbling blocks. What is certain is that it is a technique that also offers many opportunities to make mistakes. Among other things, this is due to the fact that Scrum has a very reasonable and goal-oriented set of instructions and rules, but that this user manual is also very short. Stefan Wolpers deals with this topic of error sources and error patterns in agile management on business2community and tries to sensitize managers for these potential errors. Below we summarize his article for you.
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Agile specific and individual

When Scrum is used in agile transformation, Stefan Wolpers recognizes three error patterns in particular that he observes again and again. Many companies decide to become agile. There are numerous reasons for this, including the fact that the competition is becoming faster and more innovative. The desire for increased productivity and the struggle to find qualified managers are other reasons. A significant driver to become agile is that increasingly tight project budgets are available. So not a single cent can be wasted by a waterfall approach. Once the decision is made and the company begins to work agilely, many questions arise here. The problems with the introduction of agile methods are often very individual and specific. In addition, most companies underestimate the effort involved in an agile transformation. It can be problematic that there is no standard solution. Every company has to find its own agile methods and therefore makes its own unique mistakes. Nevertheless, Stefan Wolpers has identified three patterns.

The error patterns

The first error pattern can be seen in the commitment. It comes from the fact that the management level still sees Scrum or other agile methods as a trend or a fad and is therefore only half-heartedly behind it. The desire to be an agile company is therefore based more on the fact that it simply "sounds good" and that this is "the way things are done nowadays". The conviction of the method itself is missing and only superficial things are changed. If you simply print a new business card for your business analyst that now says Product Owner, you are far from being Agile. Even if you have a nice Agile playbook from a well-known agency, you are not yet Agile. After a change, you usually have 10% employees who are enthusiastic about it, 10% deniers, and 80% employees who basically don't care and silently wait to see what happens so they can bend to the majority. This makes it all the more important that managers fully identify with agile change and exemplify it. They must be the first to enter the new terrain and also take a risk sometimes. Be a role model and let everyone know that you are very serious. Show how important agile transformation is to you at every opportunity so that others can get carried away. Actively communicate about the goal of becoming agile - and preferably on all channels. Do gemba walks and organize meetings, trainings, and events to get everyone involved.

Budgets and functions

Another problem and failure pattern has to do with budgets. Your company introduces agile practices but keeps the old methods in various areas such as budgeting. An idea comes up, is presented to the boardroom, is given a budget, and is then worked on. In this process, the internal product developers should actually be treated like an external agency according to the agile manifesto. The developers have to deliver what you ask for. So proceed in such a way that you break down functional silos, that you introduce Beyond Budgeting, for example, and empower your teams to solve customer problems autonomously. Bonuses should only ever be tied to the overall progress of the business. Never to individual performance.

The culture of failure

The third common mistake concerns the culture of failure, or lack thereof. Just a few years ago, there were companies that considered the failure of a project to be a shameful defeat and would not tolerate it under any circumstances. In agile structures, failure must always be an option. Not a drama, nor a disgrace, but simply a possible end to a project. You must not allow the pursuit of success to cause innovation to fall behind. Implement a "good" failure that is learned from and simply part of the process. Failure is part of the process and a legitimate option. The failure of a project is openly discussed at the end and used as a learning example without personnel consequences. Fear of failure must be a thing of the past, for the good of innovation.

Conclusion Error Patterns

Stefan Wolpers points out once again at the end of his article that 21st century problems cannot be solved with methods from the 1980s. Agile software development is proof that times have changed and that agile methods can solve systemic problems. Unfortunately, many companies have only mediocre successes because they cling to Taylorism and succumb to the three aforementioned error patterns. So take inspiration from the agile manifesto and embrace the failure patterns to avoid repeating them.

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Author: IAPM internal 
Keywords: Agile project management, Scrum, Culture of error, Tips

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