Mythbusters: Agile Misconceptions Explained

agile misconceptions

What started out as a framework for software development has quickly taken the entire business world by storm. And training teams are starting to pay attention to the potential benefits of Agile. But it seems that there is one Agile misconception after another out there, and they’re making teams reluctant to try this new framework.

The Agile philosophy focuses on speed, flexibility, and collaboration. These three concepts are at the heart of any project or product development that leverages Agile. 

L&D leaders are starting to see that the process of developing learning experiences in today’s digital age could greatly benefit from the agile methodology. As training teams must continually roll out training that is highly complex, the ability to rapidly develop and distribute a large volume of learning experiences is paramount.

However, with all this talk of Agile, people are misunderstanding what it’s all about and how best to leverage it. Here are some common Agile misconceptions and how you can explain them better to a reluctant Agile Learning team:

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1.Agile Means just going with the flow

A common misconception about Agile is that it does not require a formulated plan or structured process. And while Agile promotes flexibility and the ability to respond quickly to a changing goal, there are structures and processes in the framework that help the whole Agile team to stay on track.

For example, the use of Sprints ensures the project maintains momentum and accountability is shared amongst the team. A Sprint is a short cycle within the project. It usually at least one week in duration but no longer than three weeks. Different tasks from a backlog are tackled in each Sprint, and progress is reviewed at the end. 

The idea is to keep iterating and improving throughout the project. And these iterations allow the team to achieve an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) much quicker than more traditional approaches. So, while Agile promotes flexibility, there is a lot more to Agile than simply going with the flow. 

2. There are no project managers in Agile

Another common Agile misconception is that there is no team structure or project managers. While the team structure is a core part of Agile success, there are still “Project managers” amongst Agile roles. It’s their job it is to keep everything on track.

Every person on an Agile team has a clearly defined role and responsibilities. This helps keeps everyone accountable and driving forward.

The Scrum Master is the role most closely associated with a traditional project manager. They focus on fine-tuning processes, providing feedback, maintaining cohesion, and mentoring other members of the team. Although a flat team structure is an essential concept in Agile, the Scrum Master oversees day-to-day operations. They manage the Scrum Board and ensure everyone stays on target.

benefits of agile learning

3. It doesn’t work

The main reason Agile doesn’t work is that it’s not implemented properly or the team gives up too soon without trying to adjust and fully committing. The Agile misconception that it’s a philosophy that simply doesn’t work usually has its roots in poor implementation.

It’s not a magic wand for achieving all objectives. Perhaps the problem isn’t whatever project management framework you’re using but other organizational factors or poorly conceived project objectives.

While Agile is certainly not a one-size-fits-all answer, if your team has tried and failed to implement it in the past, you might try bringing in some external consultants to help you find the right way to fit Agile into your team.

It’s also important to note that Agile may not be the answer to every single one of your project woes. If a complex project is already underway, introducing Agile at the midway point is likely to fail, especially if your team members are relatively inexperienced in implementing and running the Agile framework. 


4. It’s only for software

The need to keep up with increasingly dynamic market forces means organizations must find ways to kickstart a higher pace and keep up with change. That’s why practices such as Agile have been seeping into multiple business functions in recent years.

But Agile started out as a method for software development. Up until that point, most engineering teams were operating a Waterfall project management process. This involves waiting for one step in the framework to be complete before moving on to the next and usually culminates in a round of testing to work out bugs and identify “showstoppers” before bringing a product to market.

However, the Waterfall method falls short for several reasons. It means lengthy projects, delayed user feedback, long testing periods, slow iterations for product improvements, and a slower response to customer needs.

So, Agile was developed as a way to respond more quickly to customer needs, market forces, changing project goals, and a generally more sensitive and volatile market. It enabled software teams to quickly bring products to market and respond to customer feedback due to shorter Sprint cycles.

It’s not difficult to see why the same principles are appealing when applied to other business functions such as learning and development. L&D teams are under increasing pressure to deliver courses quickly and at scale to respond to changing business environments. And with a few adjustments, an Agile framework fits perfectly into many different business functions, L&D included.

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5. It’s the only way to go

Agile is not necessarily better than all other frameworks, depending on the project and the team’s goals and objectives. It’s also not the case that it cannot work in tandem with other more traditional models. But it’s a common Agile misconception that you must fully embrace Agile to the detriment of all other frameworks, models, and processes.

For example, ADDIE has been the almost universally accepted model for course design for a long time. However, it’s a linear process. And although newer versions of ADDIE are more iterative, Agile models are much more suitable for learning teams who are under increasing pressure to keep up with training demand.

Other options such as the Successive Approximation Model (SAM), AGILE Learning, and Rapid Content Development (RCD) are all learning specific project frameworks that are based on Agile principles.

The most important thing is that you embrace the underlying philosophies of Agile and select a model that works best for your team and your organization.

Want to learn more about how to manage change when shifting towards an Agile Learning culture? Download our free ebook,
It’s Time to Change How You Design Training“!

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Mythbusters: Agile Misconceptions Explained