When not to run Agile

Oct 05, 2008  ·  Sandy Mamoli

People keep asking me whether I’d run all projects using an agile framework such as Scrum.

When I answer “of course not” they often not only expect but gently try to steer me towards an answer that excludes certain type of projects: “You certainly wouldn’t use it for a mission critical system, would you? Or a compliance project? Or an infrastructure project? “

Actually, yes! I have used Scrum for business critical systems at a major mobile phone manufacturer, have implemented mission critical systems for a publicly owned European Rail Cargo company, a friend of mine has successfully delivered a compliance project and another one has even developed fighter jet control systems for a European Air Force using scrum.

It’s not about the type of project. It’s not even about the size of your project. It’s about whether you’re willing and able to create a setup that allows agile projects to succeed. To me the rather vague terms of organisational and cultural readiness can be narrowed down to a list of primary show stoppers:

I’d NOT run agile if ...

  • People on the team are not fully allocated and committed to the project

  • You can’t stack a great team and only get the people that everybody else wants to get rid of (Give me some of the company “stars” even if it’s just to show commitment and get me agile personalities!)

  • You don’t have the courage to let the team make decisions, to allow them to learn by making mistakes and to trust them to get the job done - you’re stuck in command control

  • You don’t have a business person who has the time, courage and authority to work with the team and to make quick decisions

  • You expect instant success and need a silver bullet (Sorry to be the one to bring it to you but if your project is impossible or if you don’t have good people no methodology or framework is going to help you ;-)

There are of course numerous other things that are important for agile teams to succeed but usually there are work-arounds for non-ideal situations.

If I don’t meet any of the above obstacles I’ll go for Agile any time!

What’s your list of show stoppers or essential requirements for running an agile project?


Tags: Agile, Organisations, Scrum.