Team building

Why Agile goes awry - and how to fix it

5/17/2023

In the spirit of becoming more adaptive, organizations have rushed to implement Agile software development. But many have done so in a way that actually makes them less agile. These companies have become agile in name only, as the process they’ve put in place often ends up hurting engineering motivation and productivity.

Frameworks for adaptive software development like Agile have been around for a long time and have manifested in many forms. But at the heart of most of these models are two things: forming hypotheses (e.g., what is a feature supposed to accomplish) and collaborating across domains of expertise on experiments, all in the spirit of driving learning and not careening down a path that proves to be incorrect.

When Agile software development was born in 2001, it articulated a set of four critical principles to elevate the craft of software development and improve engineering and product manager motivation:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan

Over the last three years, in our research on human motivation, we have analyzed the practices of engineers across over 500 different organizations using a combination of survey-based and experimental approaches. We’ve found that what happens in practice wildly departs from these stated principles.

Read our full article in the Harvard Business Review to learn why agile goes awry - and how to fix it.

Originally published at: Harvard Business Review

Lindsay McGregor

Lindsay is the co-founder of Vega Factor and co-author of bestselling book, Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation. Previously, Lindsay led projects at McKinsey & Company, working with large fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, universities and school systems. She received her B.A. from Princeton and an MBA from Harvard. In her spare time she loves investigating and sharing great stories.

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Neel Doshi

Neel is the co-founder of Vega Factor and co-author of bestselling book, Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation. Previously, Neel was a Partner at McKinsey & Company, CTO and founding member of an award-winning tech startup, and employee of several mega-institutions. He studied engineering at MIT and received his MBA from Wharton. In his spare time, he’s an avid yet mediocre woodworker and photographer.

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