Avoid These Critical Mistakes When Implementing Agile Into Your Organization

You’re a new Professional Scrum Master and are tasked with transitioning a company through Agile adoption. You probably feel pretty awesome. You’re up to the challenge. We salute you.

Our advice? Don’t go into your new task with arrogance. Scrum is designed to make processes flexible and smooth so product launches are faster and easier. But the truth is that there are a lot of ways things can start to go sideways on the path to improvement– basically… you can really mess it up. 

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Read on to see what mistakes to avoid when implementing Agile into your organization. 

Misunderstanding What the Word Agile Means

It’s hard to know how to implement Agile when there isn’t any agreement on what Agile means. Is Agile simply a mindset? A set of particular development practices or techniques? Is it characterized by outcomes like faster deliverables? Is it just identical to Scrum?

The clearest way to think about Agile is really quite simple: just consider a standard dictionary definition. Agility means being nimble, flexible, and light on your feet. Agility can be contrasted with brittleness and rigidity.
It’s really as simple as that. An Agile organization is able to respond quickly to changing needs, changing customers, and changing technology. There are many ways to achieve those ends.

Not Knowing How to Recognize Results Derived from Agile Practices

So now you know what Agile amounts to, in a broad sense. There’s still work to do. What are the characteristic signatures of Agile results? How can Agile outcomes be contrasted with more traditional ones?

There are many ways to implement Agile development practices within an organization, and it’s important to understand those. But the primary Agile outcome remains uniform across the board– quickly delivered working products. 

These working products are the main measure of progress and are delivered to stakeholders with high periodicity; the shorter the better.

Still not picking up what we’re putting down? If your timeline is similar to the timeline the organization you’re working for already has in place… you’re not implementing agile correctly. 

Leaving Your People Out of the Change Management Plan

One very important principle of Agile methodology revolves around how to effectively manage and influence people. The Agile Manifesto outlines some principles that speak to this set of issues. 

A cross-functional team is required for the kind of independent and fast work that is characteristic of Agile. Don’t leave important stakeholders out of the change management plan you’re undertaking. 

Over the life cycle of a project, it’s important that developers work with business representatives daily. Everybody needs to be on board with a full understanding of changes in tactics, organization, and infrastructure that underlie the successful delivery of a new product. 

They also need to have a platform to speak freely about the process. A major benefit of Agile is to catch any perceived mistakes in product development early so the team can address it, pivot if needed, and continue moving forward. Don’t like Chad from accounting? Chad might pick up on some major financial flaw saving your team from impending doom. So get over it and buy him the non-fat mocha frappuccino he loves. Hell, put some whip cream on top for good measure. 

Failing to coordinate between teams in different locations or management jurisdictions is a surefire way to fail.

Expecting That Waterfall Development Can Be Merged with Scrum

Many organizations have fairly rigid development practices. Making a shift to Agile will require understanding when it is a good idea to work within those already existing structures and when it is a good idea to replace them.

Take Waterfall development, for example. Waterfall is a phase-gated development process where functional teams are clearly delineated and siloed and where sequential development within standardized timelines is the expectation. Waterfall development is certainly appropriate in some circumstances: relatively simple linear problems. In that limited set of cases, Agile might focus on merely speeding up development phases.

Other Agile focused development techniques like Scrum fundamentally diverge from a linear, sequential approach to problem solving and product delivery. Scrum excels when flexibility and speed are valued, when project goals are not entirely clear, and when customers aren’t exclusively determining the development process.

Knowing when or whether to attempt a hybrid Scrum/Waterfall approach will be crucial for your success in Agile adoption.

Clinging to the Past

You understand the benefits of Agile and are itching to bring new ways to your organization. Beware.

Some workplace cultures exhibit a particular kind of rigidity: exaltation of the status quo. These organizations cling to the past and eschew any kind of change or development in existing systems. If you’re in charge of implementing an Agile transformation, these calcified carcasses of conservatism are going to stand in your way.

It may not be that all employees within an organization demonstrate such resistance to cultural change. But no matter the source of the resistance, it’s your job to exemplify the new ways, to demonstrate the benefits of going Agile. Doing so requires training, knowledge, effective management, and the exercise of deft, subtle methods of influence. 


It is crucially important to allow your team the autonomy they need to get the job done. self-management is a major reason why Scrum can be so successful. Micromanaging could bottleneck the entire development process. 

Once again, the Agile Manifesto is useful here. It recommends that projects should be built around motivated people who are provided with the environment and support they need to get the job done. The superiority ofself-managing teams must be recognized.

You’ll know from your PSM certification that the proper job of a Scrum Master is influencing without authority. Get the right people together, foster their habits, and trust them to get the job done.

Lack of Proper Training

Successful and effective Agile implementation requires training. One class is a great start, but assuming it will provide you with all the resources to effect a full Agile transformation is like taking one pre-med class and thinking you can perform brain surgery. 

Agile adoption requires study. Students require mentors. Responsive Advisors has you covered. Our trainers are experienced in Agile adoption and have real-world knowledge. We focus on helping hone your ability to practice Scrum and Agile in industry, not just on paper. 

If it’s more courses you want to level up your knowledge and understanding of Scrum and best practices for Agile implementation, we’ve got you. We offer training in Scrum and Agile. Our training is exciting, up-to-date, and effective. No seriously, you’ve never had more fun during a training in your life – put the tie away, dogs welcome, we like jokes (if they are funny). 

If you need experts to come in and help get the ball rolling with your Agile adoption, Responsive Advisors is the solution. We understand that agile transformation requires specialized knowledge. That’s why we offer services to build awareness about Agile and to increase the desire for transformational change within your organization. We are committed to helping you develop your understanding of how to implement Agile in an organization and of how to make it not suck for everyone on the team. 

Greg Crown

Likes baking, craft beer, whisk(e)y & beaches.
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