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Though Agile is becoming increasingly popular across the world and in different industries, many teams and organizations that try to adopt Agile project management aren’t seeing the positive outcomes they expect. Just like any methodology, the challenges of Agile project management and its successful implementation are considerable. Here we’ll take a look at some of the most common mistakes in adopting Agile and what you can do to put them right.

1. Trying to implement too quickly

Enthusiasm for change toward more Agile project management practices can be motivating, but it can also result in teams trying to run before they can walk. Before hoping to be successful, teams need to be clear on what exactly they are changing and how these changes will be put into practice. A rush to get things started will only cause confusion and most likely failure to actually adopt Agile, with everyone just going back to what they did before and branding Agile project management a disaster that doesn’t work for them.

Solution: Team members need training in how Agile will work for them before they can actually start making it work. From areas like reporting and responsibility to integrating feedback and prioritizing a product backlog, not informing staff about how and why they should be doing these things will most likely mean they won’t do them. A big help in Agile implementation is using cloud-based software to make processes quicker and lighten the work-load.

2. Not getting leadership buy-in

One of the biggest challenges of Agile project management is getting those in leadership positions on board with the fact that their team members will now be empowered to make decisions without them. While some will be delighted to see their team take on greater responsibility, others might see this as undermining their authority or even the necessity of their role altogether.

Solution: Talk to team leaders or department heads together and individually to make sure they understand how their roles will change. Show them the positive side of leadership in Agile and let them know that successful Agile implementation will be a great positive for both them and the organization.

3. Putting too many people on your team

Departments used to running big teams can have trouble cutting things down to size for Agile on a project-by-project basis. This makes decision-making and collaboration cumbersome and negates the benefits of Agile’s greater decision velocity.

Solution: The ideal size for an Agile team is 6 to 7 people. If you need more, ask if the project is too large in the first place. An Agile project should be about only doing work that’s essential to project success rather than just keeping lots of people busy.

4. Trying to do too much in your sprints

Another common issue when teams first adopt Agile is trying to replicate the “target beating” philosophy of more traditional workplaces in their sprints. While it’s great to have targets in general, a sprint’s primary goal is to get everything done, then assess whether everything was achieved and if not, why? Trying to crowbar too much work into a sprint to “motivate” the team to push itself more will only lead to sprint deliverables being missed and team morale being thrashed by constant (perceived) failure.

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Solution: Use sprints to accurately assess team capacity and the amount of time items on the product backlog take to complete. This should be a constant process of improvement, which means sprint targets should always be within a few percentage points of the final result.

5. Draining productivity through shoulder tapping

Though it’s never a formal work practice, a lot of work in most offices is assigned through “shoulder tapping” – that is, when a manager (or even another team member) approaches someone and asks them if they could work on something. While this is a natural enough way to delegate tasks, it can also undermine one of the core tenets of Agile: decentralized decision-making through empowered teams. In other words, truly Agile teams shouldn’t need to rely on a central shoulder-tapper, but rather the collective initiative of motivated, accountable individuals with an equal stake in the project’s success.

Solution: In Scrum, for example, any incomplete work goes on the product backlog. From there, teams democratically prioritize each item’s importance and then complete items according to those priorities. Instead of a single manager determining the path of a project, team members collaboratively determine the most efficient path forward.

Learn more about Agile project management on our blog.


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