Failed Agile Program a Crime?

You know, I’ve thought about this before:

Is it corporate crime for a consulting company to work with a client and fail to implement their full service agreements? Or does it simply amount to scope creep and contract negotiations? I know for the government, it equates to contract negotiations…

With plenty of examples fill our newspapers of failed businesses and corporate scandals, one has to wonder how it all gets started. John Steen asserts that:

“[The most] fundamental importance is the revisiting of the business model and understanding what the key factors are that make it work.”

If you understand and revisit the business plan, model, and strategy for a client you will always be able to re-orient yourself to what the goal of a product or service is.

There are enough consistencies here to identify three links between all of the companies that ended in corporate fraud cases.
1) Strong orientation towards growth
2) Useage of mergers and acqusitions to accelerate growth
3) Reliance on debt finance

The fraud usually creeps in when the strategy fails to generate returns and the debt gets bigger. In these cases the temptation to ‘cook the books’ just long enough to let the turnaround happen is almost overwhelming. Small adjustments to reports become bigger and bigger until the receivers reveal the full horror of the failure.

I’m sure you can look at this an see where I’m going with all of this:

As more companies are turning to Agile to help “fix” their software development process, Agile consultancies need to be ever so careful at creating an Agile Adoption Plan that really works for the client. I have personally run into so many companies and clients who have “implemented Agile” but fail to understand its true value. Why? Because the predecessors and vendors that came before have just dropped an “Agile Bomb” and then left. Leaving the client without the pragmatic steps to implement Agile in their particular environment.

So what am I saying here? Know your Agile. Know the client’s environment well. Implement incrementally. Implement focusing on highest value. Start small. And please have a solid Agile strategy!

[HT: Tim Kastelle]

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5 Responses to “Failed Agile Program a Crime?”

  1. Mike Cottmeyer
    April 28, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

    Let me ask this Peter… You walk into the client and you know they need a two-year full blown agile transformation. You are up front and direct with them, but they only have 30k to get started with some training and a bit of coaching. Do you walk away because you don’t want to drop a bomb? Do you take the deal hoping you can show them the light? Deals are hard to come by, where is your line?

    • peter
      April 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

      Thanks for the feedback Mike. It seems like the whole idea around this situation you put together above implies that you can’t do a good job within $30K worth of work.
      It wouldn’t be a full agile implementation, but according to your SOW you could be successful in helping them in achieving foundational knowledge and pragmatic steps to help their company. You wouldn’t be on the hook in that regard for the “success” of agile since the terms of your contract are limited to just the introduction training, workshops, etc.

      So in that regard, you and the company can be successful in the short term work… but the future adoption would be up to the company.

  2. Mike Cottmeyer
    April 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    Agreed, but if you came in behind me, that might not be clear. You might think I left an agile bomb when I delivered exactly what was agreed to. This is an issue, because I am almost to the point where I’d walk away from a deal where I didn’t think the client was going to be successful. Six months ago, that would have been much harder. I am behind a coach right now, and it would be VERY easy to accuse him of leaving a bomb, until I got deeply involved and learned what was really at play. Even if the cleint buys the 2 year trsnsformation, they still have to DO what they are coached to do…. given some environments, that is not a guarantee. Looking forward to getting together and talking abot this.

    • peter
      April 28, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

      AHa! Yes sir. You see, I intimately understand how that plays out. “Agile bombs” have been dropped… and coming in behind them can be a crazy mess to clean up.

      I think the lesson here is that we must take the reasonable amount of time to fully realize the circumstances in which you are placed… and not to cast judgment too soon on the previous consultant or company. Fair enough.

      Btw, we do need to get together soon**

  3. Jordan
    April 30, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    Well, this not just related to agile. This is related to consultants in general.

    It’s like being a doctor. They don’t call you when they are healthy.

    So most companies are suffering (from self inflicted) wounds and call you (or me or whomever) to fix them (be they agile or just development issues).

    It’s not necessarily the fault of the consultant…they may have been constrained as Mike suggests.

    At what point do you walk away from a deal? It’s hard to tell. Sometimes you won’t know until it’s too late.

    Jordan

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