Has Agile Hit A Glass Ceiling?

Has the implementation of Agile within the software and IT sector hit a glass ceiling?

This could be one of the conclusions from a new, in-depth academic Agile study conducted by a team at the University of Dresden.

Storm-Consulting, which helped with the analysis of the report, has been given access to the findings before next year’s official publication.

One of the most interesting conclusions is that although Agile values and principles are well understood in the sector, their ‘concrete implementation’ still leaves a lot to be desired in terms of decision strategy and decision making.

Adoption may be falling behind acceptance says Russ Lewis, Senior Partner of Storm-Consulting. He said: “This matches our experience with clients. Senior executives will often subscribe to the Agile Enterprise, whereas in reality, it’s some way down the rungs of the organisation that the concept is fully embraced. This in effect creates the glass ceiling.”

The report is entitled ‘What Constitutes an Agile Organization? – Descriptive Results of an Empirical Investigation.’ It has been prepared by Roy Wendler and Theresa Stahlke, in the Faculty of Business Management and Economics, Chair of Information Systems, Technische Universitat, Dresden. It’s one of the largest studies of its kind and involved interviewing Enterprise and IT Architects; Chief Executive Officers; Chief Information Officers; Chief Technology Officers; and, other IT Managers.

It concludes that generally, the sector is adapting well to Agile thinking in terms of its organisational ability. But, that a definite split has opened up between team members who fully engage in Agile practices, and those who retain a ‘command and control’ approach.

As the conclusion of the report says: “To be agile requires more than sticking to particular methodologies or programs. It starts with values, translated into an appropriate culture and strategy as well as with staff sharing corresponding capabilities. But finally, all this has to be implemented in an environment that allows the people to display and develop their abilities and ensure that they are able to organize their everyday work with concrete activities supporting agile behaviour.

“It turned out that concrete implementations fall behind general attitudes. So, the results indicate rather agile values and principles, but concrete conditions and circumstances only achieve less agile, or at least equal values…

“…Main problem areas are a lack of decentralization of decisions, what has the risk of undermining the trustful culture. This issue is accompanied with unclear strategies and a missing inclusion of employees into strategic decisions. In addition, internal collaboration across departments and functions as well as early involvement of all affected departments in strategic matters shows room for improvements. Interesting issues are furthermore a compensation and incentives that are often not based on team results and people’s skills.

“Finally, although the satisfaction of customer needs is not a problem, the integration of customers and also partners into own processes and activities reveals some weaknesses.”

The full report will be available from the Storm Consulting website when it is published in January, 2014.


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