What are some common agile anti-patterns?

Here are three common agile anti-patterns:

  1. Helpful team members filling roles that others should be filling
  2. Overcommitting to work that is not fully defined
  3. Teams are working so hard they are forgetting to take time to rest, reset, and renew their Agile practices.

There’s a reason for the phrase Agile is a journey. Change is hard and requires time and effort to take hold. As the change gains traction, agile champions will start to pop up and proactively coach others. Snowball effect!!

If you encounter an anti-pattern (non-agile behavior), gently steer the conversation, so teams understand the specific value of an agile approach. For example, if a team often overcommits, ask them to try a few increments with a reduced amount of Work in Progress. The team will be able to complete their commitments when they are focused without conflicting priorities.

Another common anti-pattern – committing to work that isn’t ready or has unclear requirements. This anti-pattern slows us down a lot. Ask the team to try working on only “ready” features. They will discover they have enough information to complete stories without disruptions, freeing up the necessary time to groom future work. This win-win is a huge eye-opener for teams.

This next anti-pattern occurs when a team member isn’t fulfilling the duties of their specific role. For example, if a product owner isn’t achieving their deliverables to the team, someone may step in to fill the gap. That’s a great attitude until the volunteer becomes overwhelmed and doesn’t deliver on their responsibilities. Then a third person steps in to fill that gap. It can quickly snowball, becoming so chaotic that the flow is severely diminished. When this happens, go back to the basics of the Scaled Agile Framework. What do the team and the enterprise need each role to provide? Ask team members to fulfill their own role’s duties. Keep the flow clean.

We’ve all fallen into another anti-pattern. As we dive into our work, we focus on new functionality or enhancements and forget to take care of our agile adoption. An agile mindset grows and pays infinite dividends to the team and enterprise when it is nurtured. Remember to allocate focused time to refresh and reset and put it in your boards.

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