Survey Says: We’re Not as Agile as We Claim

This content is syndicated from Agility@Scale: Strategies for Scaling Agile Software Development by ScottAmbler. To view the original post in full, click here.

My current agile newsletter for Dr. Dobb's Journal, How Agile Are We? discusses some of the results from my recent How Are Are You? survey.  The survey investigated how well "agile teams" met the following five agile criteria:
  1. Does the team regularly produce value for their stakeholders?
  2. Does the team validate its own work to the best of its ability?
  3. Are stakeholders actively involved?
  4. Is the team self organizing?
  5. Does the team strive to improve their process?

Some interesting results include:

  • 94% of teams which are claiming to be agile are providing value to stakeholders on a regular basis.  
  • 87% of teams which are claiming to be agile are validating their own work.  
  • 95% of teams which are claiming to be agile are working closely with stakeholders.  
  • 56% of teams which are claiming to be agile are self organizing. 
  • 88% of teams which are claiming to be agile are improving the process that they follow throughout the lifecycle.  
  • Teams which are claiming to be agile often aren't.  53% of "agile teams" meet the five criteria, although 72% meet all but the self-organization criteria.
  • Teams which are moving towards agile but aren't there yet are reasonably close.  39% of those teams meet all five criteria and 63% meet all but self-organization.
I believe that there are several important implications:
  • Whenever someone claims to be on an agile team you may want to explore that claim a bit deeper.
  • The low level of self organization may be an indicator of cultural challenges with organizations in that their project managers aren't giving up sufficient control.  The Agility at Scale survey in November 2009 found that 59% of respondents who indicated that their organization hadn't adopted agile techniques yet that a rigid culture was hampering their efforts.  The IT Governance and Project Management survey in July 2009 discovered that "questionable behaviors", many of which were ethically questionable (I'm being polite), were far too common within IT project management.
  • Although "agile teams" may not be as agile as they claim, they're still doing better than traditional V-model teams, as revealed (again) by the 2010 IT Project Success survey.
  • If there was some sort of consensus within the agile community as to the criteria for determining whether a team is agile, I highly suspect that the agileness ratings would increase over time.  What gets measured often improves.
  • However, how agile you are isn't anywhere near as important as getting better at what you're doing.  So perhaps I'm barking up the wrong tree on this issue.  ;-) 

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