Who resists Agile transformations?

In short, everyone!! Employees, managers, and in some cases, clients.

Employees resist it for the following reasons:

  • It is uncomfortable for employees when you ask them to deliver value instead of tasks. Tasks are easier “just tell me what to do and I will do it.” Contrast that with a manager asking “I have this problem that is not completely understood that I need solved.” What if we implement a solution that the manager doesn’t like, or even worse, doesn’t solve the problem?

  • It comes with accountability. Everyone wants empowerment, but no one wants to be accountable. It is much easier to complain about doing something useless than making a decision of what needs to be done.

  • You are not only accountable for your individual results, but as a team. We are not used to teamwork as a default mode. In schools we study to achieve individual results and that is what matters. Switching that focus is scary and feels like others have more control over your results.

Managers resist it for the following reasons:

  • It is difficult for managers to let go of their perceived power. Classical management theories separates thinkers from doers. Where thinkers tell doers how to do things and how to do them right. To take that away is uncomfortable and feels like a loss in power and control.

  • It is difficult for the experienced not to be treated as the experts but as a team member. The hierarchy rank that someone achieved by becoming an expert and going up the ranks required considerable effort. So when you ask a manager to focus less on hierarchy and more on being team members it is heard as asking them to toss all that effort and achievement.

  • It is difficult for them to give up perceptions of production, such as utilization. Our work is becoming more and more complex requiring higher levels of knowledge and creativity, however, our models to manage work are the same as a manufacturing line. Getting work done is a sweet deception as it is not necessarily creating value.

Clients resist it for the following reasons:

ِAs managers want control, clients look for predictability. It is easier to ask “Will spending this amount of time, money and effort to deliver my project?” Even if we fall into “planning fallacy” where we are suddenly surprised when things don’t go according to plan. So asking clients to understand the problem first so we can start experimenting solutions is telling the client inadvertently that they do not know their own problem. Looking for quick and easy answers, experts who know the answer and how much it will cost us sounds so good, even if not true.


Many of us prefer to be right than successful. What is interesting about success is it usually comes after learning from trying. We struggle with change and we like things to stay the same, even if we ask for change. As hunter gatherers we were happier and expending less energy, however, we were vulnerable to changes. This prompted us to move to agriculture where we expended much more energy and a harder way of living. That vulnerability risk is no longer life threatening, yet our learned habits tell us to take the more predictable option even if it is not best for us. 

Who Embraces Agile transformations?

In short, everyone!! Employees, managers, and always, clients.

Employees embrace it for the following reasons:

  • It empowers employees: making decisions on how to work together is fun, more rewarding and allows larger room for growth.

  • It allows room for creativity. once the focus is solving the problem, not simply delivering a project. Introducing the right context, how success looks like, and constraints, creativity can flourish.

  • It shows continuous progress and improvement. We enjoy mastery, we enjoy progress, we enjoy making a difference. All that becomes part of our daily lives by focusing on what we are doing and how we are doing it while always improving it.

Managers embrace it for the following reasons:

  • It allows managers to focus on employee growth. We do not only enjoy our own growth but also the growth of others, especially the people we are entrusted with.

  • It gives them time to engage with customers. Getting stuck in details makes us lose track of the big picture, which is the “why we are doing this?” For our  customers . That relationship with customers creates higher levels of collaboration and understanding of challenges.

  • They become human leaders instead of task givers. Focusing on helping them individually and as a group becomes crucial and rewarding much more than the effort of trying to control them and their results.

Clients embrace it for the following reasons:

It gives them what they want, much FASTER. Do not be fooled, Agile is not about speed per se, it is more about delivering effectively.  It is normal for a client to have identified a project that is 9 months long, after further investigation, the main problem was solved in less than a month. The development itself was not efficient because we learned what we don’t need along the way. However, contrast that to the 9 months that might not have even solved the problem, that is FAST.


Because in the end we are very adaptable. We survived many unthinkable situations. And it is our best interest to survive and thrive. Stability is only an illusion and as Heraclitus said: “change is the only constant.” our ability to adapt is built-in that might even manifest itself in boredom or worse.

The point of this is to build a contrast for empathy when undergoing an Agile transformation. There is a love hate relationship, make sure love always wins.

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