Agile Anti-patterns

An analysis by Zippia found that the success rate of Agile projects was 64%, while that of waterfall projects was only 49%. However, adopting Agile entails more than just a change in terminology and organizational structures. Agile is not (and should not be) a one-size-fits-all method; hence it is fundamental to tailor the methodology's implementation to the specific requirements of each team. While this does provide some leeway for changing the team's approach, too many changes at a time could scuttle the operation.



When this occurs, Agile anti-patterns begin to arise. Anti-patterns are deceptively effective at first glance, appearing to be simple solutions to widespread problems. The primary cause of anti-patterns is the tendency to think in the short term. Fortunately, Joe LaBara helped us distinguish some prominent Agile anti-patterns and provided accurate solutions to counter them.


Three Anti-Patterns That Threaten Your Team and How to avoid them


Anti-Pattern: Leadership that is fully invested and only believes that agile should be happening at the team level.


This typically occurs when teams begin experimenting with Agile and Agile is happening in various parts of the organization; there is no real buy-in starting from the top, which means there is no consistency, is not fully invested, and is not doing it properly. Leaders must act as if they have a stake in the outcome. They must collaborate, make suggestions, and provide ideas that may or may not be used. Assuming you have the backing of the executives makes it much simpler to attempt new things and innovate. The key to working with someone who disagrees with you is not to feel threatened or take it personally. For a team to effectively collaborate, everyone must be given the space to do their best work. The top-level management not providing any assistance or participation.


The Fix: Find an executive champion.


Find an executive-level sponsor who is renowned throughout the firm to have a servant leadership approach, is open to new ideas, and encourages collaboration.

It’s called the godparent pattern, or air cover. You have an ally at the higher-ups whose sponsorship gives you some form of explicit mission permission; this is similar to the problem of dealing with command and control. Do what you can within the constraints of what they know and what they're already doing to gain their trust and the respect of your colleagues. To get started, all we need is for someone to believe and then go from there.


Anti-Pattern: Scope stretching


Creating extra work by implementing features that were not needed at the outset. This results in stress for the teams, inconsistencies across the deliverables, and delays, which in turn leads to dissatisfied clients and customers. The Product Owner may or may not have been informed, the team unilaterally increases the scope of their work. When people overextend themselves, they often stray from the project's original goals and end up questionably allocating resources.


The Fix: Foster steady lines of communications


Establishing open lines of communication between the Product Owner and the Development Team to build trust and ensure that everyone has a complete grasp of the product vision of the details of each Product Backlog item. The development team should adhere to the specified requirements; anything outside that scope should be reviewed with the relevant stakeholders. If we stick to these rules, we can guarantee that the product will be ready on time and will be up to snuff in terms of specifications.


Anti-Pattern: Daily standup turns into a status meeting


The Daily Standup is a cornerstone of high-performing teams and a common first step for groups looking to enhance their communication and coordination. On the other hand, a project manager's monitoring tools include status meetings. The daily scrum is a time for reflection and course correction. This isn't a time for reports. Poorly handled Scrum meetings result in lost time and discussion that doesn't advance the project.


The Fix: Establish the 3 stand-up questions

  • What did you do yesterday?

  • What is your focus today?

  • Do you have any impediments?

The purpose of these questions is to allow the team to have the same understanding of who was responsible for which items in the Product backlog. This has the additional benefit of providing insight into how far down the team is getting to their goal and cutting down on the time spent explaining each team member's task in detail.


Missing something?


So, did you miss something in this article? Check out the recorded session to learn more.


Key topics:

  • Top 10 Agile anti-pattern

  • Anti-pattern solution

  • Exercise on determining anti-pattern

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