5 Agile Trends We’re Seeing in 2019

By: David Hawks | Feb 11, 2019 |  Agile Coaching,  Agile Marketing,  Agile Transformation,  Article,  Leadership

We’ve been watching companies thrive—and struggle—for a long time. 2019 is our ninth year as a company and marks over 15 years of my personal work with clients as they transition to Agile. Throughout our time as a team, we’ve identified many key issues and problems that affect companies on their Path to Agility®.

Here are five Agile trends to look out for this year:

1. Companies still struggle with Agile implementation

It’s been 17 years since the Agile Manifesto was created. Unfortunately, there’s still more bad Agile than good, and it’s a bit sad that 17 years later so many companies still struggle to adopt Agile.

Over the last year or two, I’ve been conducting a survey in some of my talks, including when I spoke at AgileCamp 2018 in Dallas. We found that 75 percent of companies undergoing organizational transformation were using Superficial Agility—mimicking Agile practices without truly understanding them.

As stated above, Superficial Agility is a practice where companies adopt Agile methodology without fully comprehending or communicating why. These adoptions often fail because they’re practice-driven versus outcome-driven. These companies tend to implement Agile and Scrum without a clear, tangible goal in mind. If you have an ambiguous goal, you are guaranteed to have a bad outcome.

Remember: Agile is a solution, not an outcome. What we mean is, companies have to understand the business outcomes they want to see, such as delivering to market faster or responding more quickly to market demands. These are business outcomes people can align around and by which companies can measure success. Agile is how they can obtain those results.

2. More companies realize the importance of leadership involvement during an Agile transformation

The good news: Companies are recognizing that getting stuck is more than just a team problem. It’s a leadership problem that requires…

  • Organizational structure change
  • Behavior shifts that impact culture
  • Leaders to adjust their decision-making processes

We are seeing more clients asking for help as they realize leaders have to be a larger part of an Agile transformation to ensure success.

3. More companies are implementing the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®)

Whereas Scrum traditionally takes places at the team level, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) and other scaling frameworks, like Scrum at Scale, etc. take place in large organizations with thousands of team members, managers, and leaders. SAFe® is one of the hottest things among large companies today, and it continues to gain traction.

Unfortunately, we’re seeing companies repeat earlier mistakes made 10 years ago.  Back then, there was a similar sense of peer pressure to implement Scrum. Today, companies are following Agile trends, like SAFe® or Scrum at Scale, without understanding the reasoning or goals behind their practices and processes. As we saw with Scrum, this leads to a lack of business results for the organization.

SAFe® only works when companies become outcome-driven rather than practice-driven. Companies should know why they want to implement SAFe®, have a clear set of objectives they want to achieve, and apply the right amount of process to reach the goals they want to accomplish.

4. There are too many pretenders in the Agile coaching space

I know, I know—this is a bold statement. But let’s be honest. It takes a lot to help companies successfully undergo an Agile transformation. This business pays very well for consultants, and as a result, there are a lot of unqualified people who’ve hung their shingles in the Agile space.

The person hiring an Agile consultant is typically an uninformed buyer, and it’s easy to get snowed. These coaches may not have a deep understanding of how to implement an Agile transformation, how to motivate others, or the nuances of implementing Agile across different corporate cultures.

We’ve seen more and more individuals call themselves Agile coaches, yet they lack the experience and expertise to deliver value and coach organizations through major change. Few Agile coaches truly understand the patterns and challenges of agility because they simply haven’t done enough engagements to recognize them.

5. Agile is expanding outside of IT

This Agile trend has been gathering steam for a few years now. When we break down the core principles of Agile, we’ve found they apply anywhere you deal with complex systems and processes within an organization. Other parts of an organization, such as HR, marketing, and operations, are adopting many of the same practices we’ve been using in technology organizations for years. The need for greater visibility and predictability empowered teams, and a continuous improvement mindset has been identified across all departments.

However, Agile will need some translation when applied outside of IT. It’s not enough to mimic the practices of technology organizations. As always, we recommend being very clear about why the organization is implementing Agile.

Agile Trends From Here On Out

Agile continues to grow through whole-organization Agile transformations, Agile scaling frameworks, and Agile implementations outside of technology. Companies are drastically transforming and are highly responsive to market demands as a result.

Our industry’s challenge now is to avoid repeating mistakes of the past so that a decade from now we don’t end up with a lot of bad SAFe® and bad business-unit agility. Companies that don’t figure out how to get unstuck and achieve their outcomes are in danger of having their business models disrupted by organizations that get it—and 2019 will be no exception.

If you’d like to learn more about how to avoid getting stuck in your Agile transformation, check out our white paper, 8 Common Pitfalls of an Agile Transformation.

6 Responses to “5 Agile Trends We’re Seeing in 2019”

  1. Cris Ferrari

    This article reflects exactly what I’ve been telling to anyone about the future of agile in a short term. In Brazil, we are a step behind, but we already have our “fake agile coaches”and we call them “agilistas de palco”, in Portuguese. Thanks for sharing this 🙂

      • Cris Ferrari

        Thanks for the reply.
        Agile is expanding in Brazil, lots of companies are in the begining of an agile transformation, a couple are adopting SAFe, but most of then are relying in Scrum. Organizations are also obsessed about the Spotify Model.
        I feel like they are still focusing more in processes than culture…

  2. Dean McIntosh

    All this article tells me is that Agile is a cult and most companies are not following it. I would wonder if it is the companies fault or Agile purists blaming others because the methodology doesn’t work. however I do agree that many so called Agile coaches have little experience with real world application

  3. Briana Ertanin

    Fully agree with this – I call them “glorified scrum masters”. Unfortunately this trend devalued the standing of some genuinely great thinkers among the Agile coaching community.
    I hope that the pitfalls of the trend “everything agile” in software development are not going to transfer and impede the progress of Agility on business transformation level.

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