Agile frameworks hold such promise. From focusing on value delivery to empowered teams, it’s an exciting time to be part of product development.

But there are a lot of myths out there about what Agile teams should be like. Some believe that there is no such thing as a manager in Scrum or that teams should be able to forecast all scope and delivery dates upfront. Misunderstandings and resistance to change can lead to many companies adopting Agile in name only.

It can be frustrating to be part of an organization that has adopted Agile in name only, but it may also be difficult for some people to recognize when this is happening. Many who are part of these organizations may blame Agile for their frustrations without realizing that they never really adopted Agile in the first place.

So, how do you know if your company has adopted Agile in name only? And what should you do about it? In this article, we will provide 15 signs that your company may be adopting Agile in name only, and we’ll conclude with a few tips on how to stop pretending to be Agile and start adopting an Agile mindset – starting with continuous improvement.

1. Requesting a Large Requirements Document Up Front
Agile frameworks emphasize incremental delivery and flexibility. Requiring comprehensive requirements documentation from the start is a holdover from traditional waterfall approaches.

2. Disempowering the Product Owner
The product owner should have the authority to make decisions about the content and ordering of items in the Product Backlog. Disempowering the Product Owner undermines the success of the team..

3. Micro-Managing Developers
Agile encourages trust and autonomy within teams. Micro-managing developers contradict the principle of self-organization and reduce the team’s ability to respond to change effectively.

4. Measuring Success Based on Scope or Number of Tickets Delivered Instead of Outcome-Based Metrics
Agile success should be measured by the value delivered to the customer, not by the sheer volume of completed tasks. Focusing on scope or ticket counts misses the point of delivering meaningful and impactful results.

5. Expecting a Project Plan Instead of a Roadmap that Adapts as More Information is Learned
Agile frameworks prioritize adaptability and responsiveness to change. Rigid project plans do not allow for the iterative learning and adjustment that are core to agile practices.

6. Overemphasis Tools
While tools (like JIRA or Trello) are important, focusing excessively on these can detract from the actual agile principles of collaboration and continuous improvement.  What does it mean to over-emphasize tools?  Well, if the visual representation of your Product Backlog has 15 columns, then this might be a sign that something is wrong.

7. Rigid Adherence to complementary practices
Insisting on following particular complementary practices without considering the unique needs of the team or project can be counterproductive. Agile should be about finding what works best for the team.  (For example, is your team forced to use the user story format to document technical debt in the Product Backlog? ) 

8. Lack of Collaboration with Stakeholders

Agile methodologies promote frequent collaboration with stakeholders to ensure the product meets their needs. If this collaboration is minimal or superficial, it indicates a superficial adoption of agile.

9. No Iterative Feedback Loops
Agile relies on iterative development with regular feedback loops to improve continuously. If feedback loops are missing or ignored, the benefits of agility are lost.  How do you know if a feedback loop is missing?  If you are not getting feedback at the Sprint Review and by measuring outcome-based metrics, then you are not taking advantage of the incremental nature of an Agile approach.

10. Treating Agile as a Set of Practices Rather than a Mindset

Viewing agile as just a set of practices to be implemented, rather than a mindset and culture change focused on flexibility, collaboration, and continuous improvement, misses the essence of agile.

11. Lack of Continuous Improvement 

Agile teams should constantly reflect on their processes and seek ways to improve. If there’s no emphasis on continuous improvement, the agile process stagnates.

12. Ignoring Technical Excellence and Quality

Agile principles emphasize the importance of technical excellence and good design to enhance agility. If these aspects are ignored, the quality and maintainability of the product suffer.

13. Using Agile Terminology without Practicing Agile Principles

Simply using agile terminology (like sprints, user stories, etc.) without embodying the principles behind them is a sign of superficial agile adoption.

14. Focus on Short-Term Gains Instead of Long-Term Value

Agile should balance short-term deliverables with long-term product vision and value. Focusing solely on short-term gains undermines the broader objectives of agile development.

These practices can indicate that while a company claims to be agile, they have not fully embraced the core principles and values that make agile methodologies effective.

What if you are… Agile in name only?

Not to be cliche, but an Agile Transformation really is a journey. If your team is living with any of the signs above, discuss it at the Retrospective and identify one action item – no matter how small – to help your team improve.

And remember – even with the best intentions – an organization cannot fully transform overnight. Change takes time, and sometimes, a series of small improvements will get you there faster than trying to change everything at once.

Use the Retrospective to identify and focus on the most important things first. And then take action on them. And slowly but surely, you will become the team you want to be.

Are you excited about learning?  Join us at Scrum Day 2024 in beautiful Madison, Wisconsin, on October 23, 2024.  For more information, visit  


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