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Major Challenges in Scaling Agile Development

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Many organizations these days wish to deliver more value to customers that too at a faster pace. With this wish, they take the Agile route in software development. When the software development teams in most organizations have already moved to Agile, they face hardships and scaling Agile challenges when they intend to bring the entire organization to this route. They believe that when all departments work in the Agile way, delivery of value to customers at a faster pace will become easy.

To support this thought, studies show that Agile transformation can bring down the time to market at least by 40%. Scaling Agile is all about bringing a difference to the business and creating more efficient teams. Scaling Agile needs organizations to extend Agile practices and principles to other teams and departments more than IT and software development. It involves scaling Agile across the length and breadth of the organization. But, it forces more organizations to face scaling Agile challenges. Let us explore the challenges in this process. Nevertheless, let us first understand what does scaling Agile means:

Meaning of Scaling Agile:

In general, Agile is known to work the best in teams that has more than 11 people. Scaling Agile is nothing but the process of taking Agile methods like Kanban and Scrum that are proven. It involves using them with a more extensive diverse set of people.

Organizations succeed by permitting small groups of employees for defining their own goals and design products. When this move succeeds, organizations wish that these practices should be followed by other teams and departments in the organization as well. But, the unfortunate thing is that when all teams try to follow Agile principles, they start experiencing scaling Agile challenges. With this thought, you might wonder about the challenges that might come in the way of Agile transformation. Even, you will be interested in understanding how to handle these challenges. Let us gain some knowledge here:

Challenges in Scaling Agile:

Culture Shift:


In many organizations, teams are accustomed to traditional practices. They have been following a certain set of commands and rules. Also, for so long, they have been following a hierarchial process or system of working. But, when Agile practices are scaled across the organization, they face troubles with adapting to the new culture.

Changing to a new culture takes time as it is hard for any individual to forget his normal process/system of working and learn a new system. The problem with the Agile scaling method is that it needs the entire organization to think, process and act differently from every angle to reach the goals. So, teams will have to give up their working style. Also, they should be ready to be part of the new change.
 

How to Overcome?


An organization should not be in a hurry to bring the culture shift. It will take some time for some employees to adapt themselves to the new rules. It needs continuous motivation on the part of team managers and leads. With constant guidance to the team members on the new system, it will be possible to achieve the culture change slowly yet steadily.

Not Having A Complete Understanding of the Framework:

One of the biggest scaling Agile challenges is having a rightly trained person to guide teams with the transformation. Yes, many teams complain that individuals leading the transformation are not entirely trained and well-versed in the finer details of Agile scaling. In many organizations, a person, who already leads teams is entrusted with the responsibility of reading books to forerun the transformation. Of course, learning things on his own can be good for an individual. But, this does not work out in all cases. Organizations do this type of move just to save money.
 

How to Overcome?
 

The obvious solution to this problem is to have a person, who has taken up the Agile course completely from a reputed institution. When one or two people in the organization have appropriate training, they can ensure smooth Agile scaling across the organizations. They can answer the queries of different teams in this transformation process and will ensure smooth scaling.

Xenophobia:
 

You might have heard about different types of fears. One such type is xenophobia, which means fear of the unknown. It is the natural human tendency to feel fear and they keep away from strange notions, situations and things. Unfortunately, there is no measure to evaluate the intensity of this fear as it lets out all your inside thoughts and feelings.
 

How to Overcome?
 

This fear, which is a scaling Agile challenge can be handled with counseling. It is better to convince the team about the benefits of this shift to a new culture. The more they get counseling on the easiness and the more they know about the ease of the system, the better they will feel relieved of the fear. Things will smoothen once they start putting the new ideas into practice. 

Inadequate Long-Term Planning:

In any organization, the Agile development teams implement the Agile practices for improving their Product Backlog to a couple or three iterations. The marketing team generally takes care of the product release and performs a high-level roadmap of one to one-and-half years. Later they work with each other on these plans for the next quarter. But, the problem is that they do not properly plan things for a longer period. Without proper long-term planning, things suddenly change out of place.
 

How to Overcome?
 

This challenge is easy to overcome. Organizations should decide to plan things for longer. Of course, short-term planning is important. But, long-term planning at least for the forthcoming year will make scaling Agile easy and smooth.

Inadequate Team Autonomy:

Also, another key challenge in scaling Agile is inadequate team autonomy. As team members will have to wait to get permissions from the team management, things get delayed. When they are not able to quickly complete their work, team members start thinking that this new system takes a longer time to complete tasks. So, they will be reluctant to accept and adapt to the new system.
 

How to Overcome?
 

The best way to overcome this challenge is to permit teams to take and implement positive decisions themselves. When they feel relieved that they need not have to wait for permission from the top management, they will more confidently implement the new working methodology that they learned. 

Inadequate Motivation to Shift:

It is the human tendency to stay in the comfort zone as much as possible. But, the problem with this zone is that there will not be any growth when a team is in this zone. Scaling Agile forces team members to come out of their comfort zone. So, the inadequate motivation for this shift is one of the biggest challenges faced by organizations.
 

How to Overcome?
 

Again, motivation is the key to bringing people out of their comfort zone. It is better to explain convenience once the organization moves to Agile practices. The more they are motivated, the better it will be easy for them to get out of their comfort zone. 

Work Management Shift:
 

When you compare the traditional and Agile methodology of work management, you will find that the latter is far better than the former. When you take the case of the traditional style of management, it is aimed at achieving the fixed scope of a project. So, it consumes resources like people and time to achieve the target. On the other hand, in Agile methodology, it is entirely opposite to the traditional work management style. Agile aims at working with a fixed workforce and time. So, this work management shift creates a sense of aversion in the minds of teams. 
 

How to Overcome?
 

To handle this challenge, organizations can motivate teams to start by adopting a more open leadership pattern. It means that it should follow the old command-and-order format. As against adjusting the budget constraints, it would be better for teams to pay attention to delivering value-driven output. This challenge can be handled better when active collaboration and experimentation are allowed among teams. Further, as against the top-down approach, a horizontal communication pattern will help. Appointing a PMO to get the work done and sharing knowledge across the organization will also help with this challenge.

Technology Shift:

This is one of the major scaling Agile challenges. Teams find it hard to manage technology shifts. When scaling Agile takes place, there will be an increase in visibility, transparency and information flow across the organization. 
 

How to Overcome?
 

Before starting the scaling Agile process, it is better to make sure that every team in the organization has at least a single person with complete knowledge of technological aspects. Also, teams should use technology tools that support alignment at a tactical level. It will be hard even for the development teams to scale Agile successfully without the right solution. They will face this difficulty even if the workflow and culture are properly aligned. Based on the Agile maturity of the organization, the right technological tools for smooth scaling of Agile should be chosen.

Conclusion:

Scaling Agile challenges are many. But, they can be handled with ease with the right knowledge. Teams can follow the solutions stated above to handle the tough challenges coming in the way of Agile scaling across the organization.

 

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