It’s OK to Fail in Agile

This is a week full of Startups. Many startups fail. Most startups don’t live past 10 years. The failure rate is high. But the rewards can be even higher.

Agile adoption and implementing facets of Agile into your company or team is a process. It’s OK to fail.

We talked about Agile failure before and found some very interesting quotes about failure. In reality, failure can mean growth in the long run.

DanielBMarkham recently wrote a post about startups and failure. When coaching teams and companies to Agile:

“In fact, the first thing I look at in any system of people is whether or not they have created a culture of failure. We desperately need more failure in the world, and we need to start encouraging it.” – Daniel Markham

Failing is ok. There will be many enthusiastic and excited startup folks at Startup Riot 2011 tomorrow. Some of them may get angel investment, some venture capital, but many will go away into obscurity. Nothing wrong with that! It just means that you have to keep trying.

“Innovation is not a science. It doesn’t work from the top-down. It works from the bottom-up… Because if you’re not having failure — and a lot of it — it’s never going to work.”

One client I’ve worked with had an “Agile shop” come in an tell them all about Agile and help “transform” their company. What happened was a long engagement of theory, and no pragmatic steps to implement Agile within the current environment that was apparent at the client. This approach completely disillusioned the client and took steps to move away from Agile. In other words, it was a failed Agile program, similar to that which I’ve written about before.

Bottom line? Agile doesn’t suck. You have to take incremental steps to implement value-add pieces to the already established framework and working environment where you are now. It’s ok to fail at certain points, just keep moving and keep improving. Inspect and adapt, learn and grow!

Some Agile Scout Posts on Failure:

[HT: What to Fix]

5 Responses to “It’s OK to Fail in Agile”

  1. Scott Duncan
    February 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm #

    I have come to be a bit wary of the “It’s okay to fail” phrase over the years since it fails to provide any constructive guidance as to how to apply it.

    If it means to try something (e.g., a practice, a design) and not get it “right,” then, learning from that, get better, steadily, then “failing” just may mean continuous, incremental improvement. If the phrase is used, and taught, that way, I’m fine with it.

    But if it means making commitments and failing to meet them or alert folks that this looks like it may happen, then I am not very accepting of that. I’m not sure of the exact phrase, but to paraphrase what I believe Kent Beck has written, it is not okay to fail “when you should have known better.”

    So the trick in using failure appropriately seems to be knowing what you really do/should know and making sure you don’t fail because you ignore or are careless with that knowledge.

    • peter
      February 17, 2011 at 7:10 pm #

      Agreed. Well said. We cannot accept continual #fail. If nobody is learning nuthin’ then cut ‘em loose!

      • Derek Huether
        February 17, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

        Easier said than done on Federal projects.

        • peter
          February 18, 2011 at 11:00 am #

          I know right? Federal stuff. It’s a doozy!

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