Home > Articles > Programming > Windows Programming

Top Ten Organizational Impediments to Large-Scale Agile Adoption

Craig Larman and Bas Vodde asked agile development experts working in and with large companies about the most challenging organizational impediments. Find out what they said.
Like this article? We recommend

When we were writing the Organization chapter in Scaling Lean & Agile Development: Thinking and Organizational Tools for Large-scale Scrum we wanted to highlight some key issues. Therefore, we asked a group of agile development experts working in and with large companies about the most challenging organizational impediments. We aggregated their responses in the top ten organizational impediments. The list is worth reflecting on and was included in the Organization chapter and in this short article.

10. Jeff Sutherland, co-creator of Scrum, considers the failure to remove organizational impediments the main obstacle in large organizations. A common reason for not removing impediments is “That’s the way we’ve always done business.” We also frequently hear, “We won’t change because we invested so much in this.”

9. Peter Alfvin, an experienced development manager involved with introducing lean principles at Xerox, and Petri Haapio, head of the agile coaching department at Reaktor Innovations, both mention centralized departments looking for cost ‘savings’ and ‘synergy’ that leads to a local optimization as an impediment. Their examples included a centralized tool department forcing one tool, leading to slower development caused by the wrong tool for a job; furniture police forcing cubicles to standardize and minimize cost, leading to inefficient workplaces; IT department limiting video conferencing to lower network traffic, leading to less communication.

8. Sami Lilja, global coordinator of agile development activities at Nokia Siemens Networks, noticed that some organizations consider learning a waste of time and money. He believes this opinion is a major impediment because those organizations educate and coach people only “when there is time for it.” This view results in a vicious fire fighting cycle—mistakes made because of constricted developer skills, hasty emergency repairs, management unwillingness to allot time to analyze earlier mistakes, more mistakes made...

7. Larry Cai, a specialist at Ericsson Shanghai, mentions functional organizations (single-function groups) as one of the largest impediments. They create barriers for communication and abet finger-pointing among units.

6. Esther Derby, consultant, coach, expert facilitator, and author of two books related to organizational learning, considers systems that foster local optimization over global optimization a major barrier. She gave several examples, including Management by Objectives (MBO) and budgeting systems.

5. Mike Bria, a former agile coach at Siemens Medical Systems, mentioned “do-it-yourself home improvement” as an impediment. He highlighted the problem attitude of “we know how” after people read one or two books. In other words, the problem of failure to learn from outside expertise. The same is mentioned by Lasse Koskela, the author of Test-Driven—unwillingness to look outside the organization.

4. A. (name removed on request), a Scrum trainer at one of the largest e-commerce sites, mentioned individual performance evaluation and rewarding as a major obstacle. They frustrate developers and managers, hinder team performance, and foster command-and-control management.

3. Lü Yi, a Scrum trainer and department manager of a large development group in Nokia Siemens Networks in Hangzhou, considers “commitment games” and unrealistic promises to be the main organizational obstacle. They lead to shortcuts, continuous fire fighting, and legacy code. We cover this topic in more detail in the Legacy Code chapter of the companion book, Practices for Scaling Lean & Agile Development.

2. Diana Larsen, expert facilitator and, together with Esther Derby, the author of Agile Retrospectives, simply stated, “Assuming it’s all about developers.” We have seen this frequently—people who do not think they need to change because agile and lean involves only developers. They ask, “Why would it affect me?”

1. Almost everybody cited “silver bullet thinking and superficial adoption” as a major impediment. Dave Thomas, founder of OTI, large-scale lean product development consultant, and managing director of ObjectMentor, mentioned the misunderstanding of equating agility and productivity (rather than for adaptability), and the lack of educated executives. This leads to the belief that meaningful problems can be solved by saying “we do agile” and going through the motions, with no deep understanding or change by the leadership team—cargo cult process adoption. Ironically, this leads to no real change and no real result, and the eventual predictable abandonment of lean principles or agile development because “that doesn’t work.” A related impediment is the wishful thinking that significant improvement in large product groups can and will happen “fast,” within only a few years, rather than what we see as the more likely five or ten years—if there is sustained executive support.

In addition, for this article, we asked each other to add one more favorite organizational impediment.

Craig thinks that a culture of individual workers rather than real teams and teamwork is a key impediment. He visits many groups of individuals that are ostensibly adopting Scrum, and sees symptoms such as “Jill does Jill’s tasks, Raj does Raj’s tasks” and so forth, rather than a movement to “whole team together,” pair work, and multi-learning within the group.

Bas considers the gap between people in management roles and those doing the hands-on work to be a key impediment. Frequently, changes made at the management level have no impact (or at least, no positive impact) whatsoever on the actual value work. Similarly, decisions by hands-on developers are often not aligned with the direction of the organization. This gap is caused by managers who do not Go and See at the real place of work—they often lost the skill to do so. And by developers who do not think outside their normal job responsibilities—they are “retired on the job.” It leads to shallow agile and lean adoptions that happen either only on the management level—without any change in technical practices—or only on the development level—without any change in the organization. The lean practices of Go and See and managers-as-teachers help to reduce this gap.

The replies from the agile development experts validated our own experience and acknowledged that we were covering the right topics. The remainder of the Organization chapter in the book explores these organizational obstacles and what you can do about them.

About the Authors:

Craig Larman is a management and product development consultant in enterprise-level adoption and use of lean development, agile principles and practices, and large-scale Scrum in large, multisite, and offshore development. His books include (with co-author Bas Vodde) the best-sellers Scaling Lean & Agile Development: Thinking and Organizational Tools for Large-Scale Scrum and Agile & Iterative Development: A Manager’s Guide.

Bas Vodde works as an independent product-development consultant and large-scale Scrum coach. For several years he led the agile and Scrum enterprise-wide adoption initiative at Nokia Networks. He is passionate about improving product development, an avid student of organizational, team management, and product development research, and remains an active developer.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020