Get certified - Transform your world of work today


Agile Dressing, Waterfall Attitude

5 surefire ways to put your Agile projects at risk -- and how to get past them

12 March 2015

Agile projects start with great expectations. At the beginning, the entire team will be excited and ready to jump on the wagon, prioritizing user stories and moving items out of the sprint backlog for delivery. This is all good. However, we mustn't take this pace for granted. Sprint every time as if it's your first sprint. Understand the latent risks, and mitigate them proactively.

1. Agile dressing, Waterfall attitude

Agile projects are at huge risk when the core team or the stakeholders start thinking in the Waterfall way, which can happen right in the middle of execution. Take a look at my article on customized Agile, confused Agile, and corrupted Agile. As much as my industry peers want to call customized Agile just "Agile," in my humble opinion, in all companies whose primary value stream is not software development and/or where Waterfall activities are involved, it is "customized Agile."


  • Establish a team onboarding process for the project.
  • Make sure all team members coming onto the project have solid a foundation in Agile and Scrum.
  • Once you're past the basics, do not assume that all team members come with same deeper level of Agile/Scrum understanding; bring members up to speed as needed so the whole team is on the same page.
  • In the case of customized Agile, clarify to the team on what processes are Agile and what are not.

2. Too much oversight

This occurs when there's an inappropriate team structure, i.e., an "oversight-obese" team structure. Beware of adding more oversight roles on Agile projects. Unnecessary roles will result in stress and frustration within the team. Understand the right project team structure based on the project size and complexity and remember that a lean team brings weighty results!


  • In case of additional people being roped in on the project, clarify the roles and responsibilities.
  • Discuss the expectations of the newly added team members.
  • Make sure the newly added people have good understanding of Agile.

3. Delayed prioritization

Schedule product backlog refinement sessions at regular intervals with the product owner. Remember that delayed prioritization is not same as reprioritization; delayed prioritization means stalling the epics/user stories in the middle. Timely prioritization means knowing the next prioritized epic/user story well in advance. Make sure the product owner is aware of the reasons for the stalling of the epic/user stories, in cases of delayed prioritization.


  • Work with the product owner to understand the reprioritization of epics/user stories.
  • In case of schedule revision (sprint replanning), make sure product owner is aware of the changes -- in terms of scope, dollars, and delivery.
  • Schedule a retrospective and work toward not having delayed prioritizations for the project in the near future.

4. Diminishing leadership support

Agile projects are not successful based only on the work and attitude of the Scrum team. Ongoing support from leadership is key to success. Engage project sponsor(s), the PMO, product owner(s), SMEs, and/or other appropriate stakeholders all through the project.


  • Schedule monthly meetings with leadership and provide project status reports.
  • Do not shy away from bringing up risks and issues; seek their help in mitigating these.
  • Inculcate a "single family" culture within the project team and include leadership as one of the family members.

5. Cooperation but no coordination

Remember Peter F. Drucker’s example of "Cooperation versus Coordination"? All project members may be willing to cooperate for the project's success, but no coordination will mean no results. Have the whole team extend its cooperation and coordination at "right" time with the "right" mind-set -- with effective planning. That's what makes the entire team taste success.


  • Discuss the program vision, project vision, and sprint goals as necessary during the project execution.
  • Reassure each team member about the importance of his or her role in the project's success.
  • Address the team's challenges and work to mitigate them.
  • Understand challenges during forming, storming, and norming stages and work with the team to get to the performing stage.
  • Win the team's confidence and establish trust among all the members.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

Current rating: 3.3 (3 ratings)


Be the first to add a comment...

You must Login or Signup to comment.

The community welcomes feedback that is constructive and supportive, in the spirit of better understanding and implementation of Scrum.


Newsletter Sign-Up