Avoiding the Agile Tool Trap

May 2, 2017 3:27:00 PM / by Suraya Bradshaw

Suraya Bradshaw


If you automate a mess, you get an automated mess.

- Rod Michael - Director of Customer E-Business, Rockwell Automation


Tools, tools, tools…our industry really loves its tools. One consistent dysfunction I’ve observed across organizations is a serious overemphasis and overreliance on tooling. How quickly we’ve forgotten the first value of the Agile Manifesto – “Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools.” 


While tools are always introduced with the promise of enhanced collaboration and increased visibility, all too often there is little effort put into really understanding where the perceived need has arisen from or how the organization can go about implementing a tool in a manner that respects their specific context. As such, things quickly degrade, and the new tool adds additional distractions and confusion into the mix. In turn, the promise is rarely delivered.   


Tools are seldom, if ever, the single answer (or the root of an organization’s problem). One clear indication of this can be found in the results of VersionOne’s 10th Annual State of Agile Report. There is not a single direct reference to tooling in either, 1) the leading causes of failed projects or 2) the barriers to further adoption. Yet, far too many still spend an extreme amount of energy and effort looking for the tool or collection of tools that will provide the silver bullet. Stop the madness!!!


While tooling can play a valuable supporting role in your journey toward greater agility, the promise of Agile methods is only fully delivered upon when efforts are directed toward the “system” as a whole. Serious consideration must be given to both the underlying processes and the human dynamics inside of an organization. Dysfunctions, or organizational “scar tissue,” build up over time and take the form of a puzzle that is truly unique to your context. Without addressing these dysfunctions, or removing the waste from your underlying approach, you’ll simply be adding another variable into an already complex system and making the bigger problem even harder to solve. To be successful, you must first examine the constructs and dynamics, both real and imagined, that impede the effectiveness of those involved in delivering value to customers.


If you are just starting your Agile journey and want to avoid this “Tool Trap”, or you are an organization already practicing Agile methods and can relate, AgileTrailblazers can help. Our team of Enterprise Transformation coaches can help your organization to place the focus on a solid foundation, based on a healthy process that emphasizes interpersonal dynamics and results, and then consider how best to introduce or reintegrate tooling in a way that supports, rather than distracts. You’ll benefit from both our practical Agile transformation experience and our partnerships with the largest tooling providers in the industry.


Learn more about building and strengthening an agile organization here:

Strengthen your Agile Organization




Interested in training to help advance your agile journey? Click the button to view our current list of public training courses! Use code BLOG10 for 10% off!

View Public Training Course Listing




Topics: Agile, Agile Training, Agile Tool Trap

Subscribe to Email Updates

Lists by Topic

see all