Top-Down Agile Beats Bottom-Up

Leaders who publicly demonstrate agile methodologies and promote them top-down drive their organizations to sustain agile practices and succeed. But bottom-up agile transformations lack resiliency and generate cultural strife.

Top-down agile

Taiichi Ohno, agile coach for Toyota and its executives

Agile methodologies are now widely recommended for managing software development, but most large companies require transformation from entrenched “waterfall development,” an intuitively appealing strategy that has created massive project disasters (see Why Software Fails). Traditionally, most large agile transformations have been pursued bottom-up. One approach starts with a single team, proves agile works, and then expands further and higher in the organization. Hopefully that agile team’s success inspires others to become agile. Another approach religiously converts all engineering teams to adopt a specific agile methodology, but leaves management teams and hierarchies, dependencies, promotion policies, job titles, roles, recruiting and budgeting in their previous form. The developers adopt agile, but the managers don’t. Continue reading