6 Deadly Sins of Agile Implementations: Momentum

August 5, 2020 | Peter Cronin

In the previous article, we discussed failing to manage the change aspect of the transformation. In this article, we will discuss failing to scale Agile while momentum is present.


“The nature of Agile and the key to its success is often the key to its downfall. Agile advocates moving quickly, but is your company structured to support it?”


You begin a new change project. Understandably, there are some nerves, but, there is a lot of excitement in the air about the positive change that you can create for your business. However, despite all the excitement, what ends up happening is people become focused on obstacles, the Agile implementation slows down, and

any enthusiasm that people had for the change project is quickly squandered. This is our sin number four.

It is natural for people to resist change or at best to allow change to happen slowly over an extended period of time to maintain the status quo for as long as possible. It may be that they are concerned about potential obstacles or challenges, or worried that there will be too many significant changes happening all at once.

In situations like this, it is common to want to slow the implementation down, so as to take a ‘gently, gently’ approach and, in doing so, break down all of the steps into small pieces, and roll these out slowly. Of course, people’s enthusiasm and motivation for a successful project will drop because you are not getting any of the successes, or ‘wins,’ for the change early enough for people to get excited. It is all happening very slowly.

Maintaining the Momentum

There are several ways to maintain the momentum and pace of an Agile implementation. The first thing you need to consider is how you are rolling it out. Instead of simply looking at team, by team, by team, you want to be looking at the entire flow. Everything in that flow should be hit by the change, and through the change at the same time, irrespective of the number of people or teams within that particular flow.

While your focus should be on that flow, you also want to other people and teams within the business to be a part of the change and to feel involved. You do not want to say, “Oh, no, it is not your turn yet! Please just sit back; wait for your turn!” Rather, you want to be giving them good news and building them as part of the project. You want them to be excited and ask, “When is it our turn? When are we going to get this?” So, you want to focus on the entire flow, and all the people and teams in the flow in the actual change, but you also need to make sure everybody else feels involved to avoid getting the reaction, “Oh, it doesn’t affect us.”

Breaking it Down

Next, break the implementation down into the minimum number of steps required. Set out the rules clearly to avoid any confusion. For example, if you are introducing sprints, you might exclaim, “All right, the sprints are going in now!” If you are introducing execution sprints, say, “Now, the execution sprints, they are going in, they are going to have these rules attached to them, they are going to be this long, here we go.” So, you want things to be moving along like that so momentum is maintained throughout the implementation.

Celebrating Wins

If you have not already done so, start using a ‘wins’ board to celebrate successes. This may be a whiteboard, which people can access as needed, or it can even be digital. Whatever it is, make it available for everybody to put up all their wins. People will find different things positive or exciting about a project and if you do not have a wins board available for people to use, you are missing out on receiving this valuable information.


“You are not ignoring the negatives, but you don’t want to end up spending all of your time focusing on the negatives and then all of the positives disappear.”


It is important to make sure people do not feel they are limited in what they can and cannot put on the wins board! For one person, a win may be, “Yay! We don’t have to do this anymore!” and for someone else, their win might be, “Wow! Our meetings actually run on time now!” People can go home from work on time now, they can have lunch when they want to have lunch. Whatever it may be. People can write these on the wins board, which makes visible all the positives that are happening during and after the Agile implementation.


The principle that fits right into this is something we call ‘Third, Third, Third.’ For any change project, such as an Agile implementation, you will have people split into three groups.

  1. You have those who are really excited about it, and can’t wait to do it, “It’s going to be great!”
  2. You have those who are not excited, and not a fan of change, “I wish we weren’t doing this at all.”
  3. You have others sitting in the middle, “I have seen things like this before and they never worked.”

If you spend all your time attempting to address the concerns of those who are against the implementation, will find that support from other people starts to diminish; they start to lose interest. So, what do you do to maintain interest and keep the momentum going? You focus on the ones who are excited about the change project, and you spend less time worrying about trying to keep the people in the other groups happy.


As these people start to see more and more benefits from the change project, and they feel more and more excited about it, they will drag up the middle section of people who are waiting to see, “Where is it going to go? What is going to happen? Is it going to be worth it?” Those people start thinking, “Oh, yeah, it’s actually looking pretty good. I might get in on this, actually. The project is starting to look quite interesting now.”

With the middle group now on board, the ‘doubters’ in the bottom group start to say, “Oh, OK. This isn’t as bad as some of the previous projects we have had. This one actually looks pretty reasonable. I might get on with this one.” Of course, you are always going to have your negative person at the end, who won’t change their attitude towards the Agile implementation. There is nothing you can say or do to change that.


“Focusing on the wins everybody is getting and on those people who are looking to get more benefits from it will accelerate the project and maintain the momentum.”


The key to making sure that momentum is present throughout the Agile implementation is to be clear about what the benefits are, and then being able to successfully demonstrate these benefits as they come through during the change project. Focus on what everybody is getting from the change project that is beneficial and positive to keep the momentum of the Agile implementation going throughout the business.