It’s Not Agile’s Fault: 3 Lessons to Ensure Accountability and Collaboration

Oliver Foerstner/Shutterstock.com

Stickies on the wall doesn't mean your team is doing agile appropriately.

Today we often hear project and program managers and even technical staff (on occasion) complain about agile, but is it the methodologies fault if it’s not being used as intended? Agile presents a methodology shift that requires continuous collaboration and accountability through a project lifecycle—this is a change from the way things used to work and change is uncomfortable.

Before agile, the Defense Department’s acquisition model was based on waterfall/spiral methods where accountability was hierarchical, and through this method the industry saw over 70% of software engineering projects fail in their first 12 months.  Requirements were rigid and both Industry and Government would be delayed by spending too much time interpreting requirements.

In the waterfall/spiral environment, we had an adversarial environment where a business that provided test services would be in competition with a business that developed software instead of working together. 

Another problematic approach was the “urgent needs” process, where requirements were generated directly by our warfighters. Those “oh crap” moments on the battlefield where you realize your enemy has adapted to your battle plan and you need a real-time solution. These needs would remain urgent; however, they would be pushed through an acquisition process where government civilians and troops in the rear would politicize the needs. Ultimately, diminishing the “urgent” element of the requirement.

Agile Is Rooted in Collaboration and Accountability

The industry pushed agile hard and the very first department to formally adopt acquisition based agile practices was the Department of Homeland Security in 2016. Given that agile was commonly used in commercial industries, many teams were able to easily and quickly train teams and find experts to get up and running. Developers, testers, writers, architects, cybersecurity staff and requirement teams were working together instead of in silos. The result was seeing projects successfully deployed in months versus years and a direct line to return on investment for the first time in government software development.

From my perspective, the single most important aspect of the agile methodology is accountability. Agile teams have multiple competencies relying on each other to get the job done, meetings are held daily and the team members hold each other accountable through creative estimating processes, comradery and competition. The agile approach has also allowed teams to fail fast, as teams can measure success to meet goals more often and more accurately throughout the entire process, as opposed to waiting until the end and losing valuable time.

3 Key Lessons to Using Agile Effectively

In 2020, the government industry has mostly forgotten about waterfall/spiral and where we were.  However, we still see a partial agile implementation on nearly every program as a cosmetic rather than a rigorous practice. Teams with stickies on the wall think they are doing agile. Programs with teams that make up multiple competencies claim they are doing agile. I have even experienced a team claiming to be agile, where the level of accountability was tied to daily attendance and badging processes (instead of EPICs, user stories, features, etc.).  

The three most important lessons we learned from agile are to: 

  • Ensure team level accountability (focused on EPICs, user stories and features).
  • Iterate in parallel with all competencies of your team. 
  • Bridge the gap between users, designers and developers by minimizing the middleman (acquisition) and orienting requirements towards features over “shall/will” statements.  

If you feel like your program is failing and it’s agile’s fault, ask yourself are you truly implementing an agile methodology. Is there accountability from within? Are you working as a team to measure success and effectiveness throughout the process? 

Erick Mann is the vice president and chief engineer for CommIT Enterprises.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.