Leading vs Lagging Indicators, Performance Management
Dr. Agus Setiawan

PhD Holder and result-oriented Director with 25 years experience with involvement in all levels of Business Strategy, Sales and Marketing, Managing Project and Product Development. Aside of managing a company, he is also the best corporate trainer and public speaker in seminar and conference.

Unveiling the Dark Side of Agile: Tackling Unproductivity Head-On

In the dynamic landscape of project management, Agile methodology stands out as a transformative force, promising unparalleled flexibility, collaboration, and the ability to swiftly adapt to change. However, akin to any potent tool, Agile is not immune to challenges that can transform it into a breeding ground for unproductivity.

In this article, we will delve into the pitfalls that can lead to what we call "Zombie Agility" and elaborate on effective strategies to confront and overcome these challenges. Our aim is to ensure that the true potential of Agile is not only realized but maximized for sustainable success.

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Agile Take Over, Agile Turn Over

Agile, when misunderstood, can devolve into a rigid set of rules rather than embodying a flexible mindset, inhibiting the ability to adapt promptly to changes. Its iterative nature, though designed for flexibility, can inadvertently result in scope creep and the development of unrealistic expectations. Furthermore, an excessive focus on processes may cause organizations to neglect the human aspect of teamwork, resulting in diminished team morale, creativity, and collaboration.

The "Zombie Agility" Phenomenon

When organizations succumb to these challenges, they fall prey to the "Zombie Agility" phenomenon. This is characterized by teams that are half-animated, joyless, and listless, ultimately failing to achieve the desired business results. It is crucial to recognize that the objective isn't merely "going Agile," but rather "going better" with Agile.

How to Tackle Unproductivity and Avoid Being a "Zombie"

To combat the menace of unproductivity within an Agile framework, organizations must adopt proactive measures.

  • Solid Foundation: Ensure teams grasp the core principles and values of Agile to avoid it becoming rigid rules. This understanding paves the way for successful implementation.
  • Embrace Change: Foster a culture where change is welcomed as an opportunity for growth. Agile thrives on continuous improvement, and accepting change fuels innovation and success.
  • Collaborative Spirit: Active engagement and collaboration are core tenets of Agile. Effective teamwork fuels creativity, agility, and team morale in iterative work environments.
  • Clear Goals & Transparency: Establish and transparently communicate clear goals to prevent unproductivity. By understanding objectives, team members stay aligned and focused, minimizing unproductive cycles.
  • Leadership Champions Agile: Leadership plays a crucial role. Active endorsement, support, and participation from leaders create a culture of accountability and commitment, emphasizing Agile's importance in achieving organizational goals.

To Sum Up…

While Agile has transformed project management, it is not without its challenges. The key to harnessing the true potential of agility lies in maintaining a delicate balance between structure and adaptability while prioritizing the human element in the Agile journey. Organizations that tackle unproductivity head-on and foster a culture of collaboration, continuous improvement, and transparent communication will not only avoid the pitfalls of "Zombie Agility" but will also emerge as agile champions, achieving better results and sustained success. By embracing these principles, organizations can truly thrive in the ever-evolving landscape of project management.

Ferrer Romero, E. F. (2018). Strategic project management: a methodology for sustainable competitive advantage. Revista EAN, (special issue), 15-31.
Kerzner, H. (2019). Using the project management maturity model: strategic planning for project management. John Wiley & Sons.
Papke-Shields, K. E., & Boyer-Wright, K. M. (2017). Strategic planning characteristics applied to project management. International Journal of Project Management, 35(2), 169-179.
Schlosser, J. (2015). Building Excellence in Project Execution: Integrated Project Management.

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