Can Pragmatic Agile be the Answer?

by Gino Marckx, Director, EPAM Agile Competency Center

Implementing agile is hard, really hard. So hard, in fact, that many organizations fail to achieve the results that agile promoters all over the globe promise. Are these promises empty, then? Are they based on lies? Not quite. In contrast, there is plenty of proof from teams successfully implementing agile practices: they are significantly improving their productivity, reducing their dependency on a limited number of people, and increasing their ability to quickly respond to the ever-changing needs of their customers and fast-paced markets.

Just like any other method or practice, agile practices rely on a set of unfortunately undocumented preconditions to be successful, which we will call the team’s context. When teams cannot meet those preconditions, the practices cause friction in the teams rather than help them improve. If this friction is not addressed by either a change in context that leads to the preconditions being met, or by adjusting the practices so that they work in the team’s context, the use of agile practices leads to resistance, mindless rule-following, and a lack of accountability, sometimes forever expelling the word ‘agile’ to the catacombs of tried and failed methods.

With more than 15,000 engineers throughout the company, EPAM teams work in a variety of contexts, some more suitable to implement well-known agile practices than others. Pragmatic Agile helps us to identify the practices that make sense for the individual teams and their context – for the objectives that they aim to achieve, for the engagement setup in which they operate, for the technology they use. As teams mature and continuously improve, they embrace additional practices that help them overcome the most important challenge at that time, immediately delivering tangible benefits and reducing the resistance that naturally comes with change.

By being mindful of the context of the teams and the customer environment, Pragmatic Agile also enables teams to focus on delivering value while gradually transforming their context into a more agile-ready environment. As a result, teams experience reduced delivery stress and are freer to learn from practice application.

Implementing agile is hard, really hard. But by recognizing the actual goal the practices are trying to achieve and the context that is oftentimes unquantified yet critical to the teams’ ability to improve, Pragmatic Agile is a unique method that guarantees lasting transformation and improvement.