Picture the scene: on one side of the table is a prone-to-get-angry marketing executive. He is wondering why the website change he approved three months ago - that was only going to take two, one-week development sprints to complete - is still not live. Opposite him sits a tired looking scrum master who didn't want the job – he'd prefer to be coding.
'I thought you said it was ready?' says the red-faced executive.
'It is', replies the tired technician.
'So why hasn't it gone live?'
'We're waiting for the project finance committee to approve the spend; and Ops won't deploy the change unless we've completed a deployment request form; and we can't complete that without a project code; and we can't get a project code until the spend is approved.'
'Why haven't they approved it?!?!' enquires the now definitely angry executive.
'Because the last meeting was cancelled when the fire alarm went off and there's a month before the next one. Also, we can't get the test team to sign-off because they can't allocate a tester without a project code to book the time against. Anyway, we've started to work on the backlog and will have five more priority one changes ready by the end of the week.'
In this semi-fictitious scene that I describe, the disgruntled executive sighs a resigned sigh. He knows it's not worth taking on the finance committee. He's just going to have to wait until the process runs its course. Nothing seems to have actually improved since this Agile development team has been looking after him. Still, he does see them quite a lot, and they seem to be used to being shouted at. And to be fair, the stuff they have produced seems pretty good.
Sadly, I have come across situations like this on too many occasions, and trying to change entrenched governance processes really is like pushing water up hill. But where there's a will there's a way. With the right level of commitment and sponsorship from senior levels, ways can usually be found to streamline things to accommodate Agile development – eventually. So if you really want to unlock the benefits of Agile, then I urge you to look beyond the development process and consider the governance and other external factors. If you don't change these at the same time, then you're storing up trouble down the line.