February 28, 2024

Top 8 Agile Pain Points

Dive into an essential discussion on overcoming common agile development challenges, from change fatigue to strategic planning and user-focused design. Discover how clarity and a people-first approach can transform your agile journey.

By Dani Linn, Principal Advisor and Director of Agility-at-Scale Services

Are These Holding You Back?

If any of these challenges sound familiar, don't worry – you're not alone. Our expert, Dani Linn, discusses a few of the key points below:

  1. Teammates Struggle With Change Fatigue
  2. Trying Scaled Agile Without Understanding Basic Scrum
  3. Plan Interruptions That Delay Releases
  4. Process Overhead That Hinders Innovation
  5. You Create More Features Without Solving User Problems
  6. Your Teams Create Misaligned Pieces of a Solution
  7. Functional Silos Restricting Collaboration
  8. Repeated Duplication of Effort Across Teams


In the dynamic realm of agile teams, adaptation is the name of the game. However, even the most resilient teammates can find themselves grappling with change fatigue. As they navigate constant shifts in methodologies, processes, and priorities, the challenge lies not only in embracing change, but in sustaining enthusiasm.

Addressing change fatigue requires a thoughtful and strategic approach aimed at supporting individuals and teams through transitions. Hint, one pizza party will not solve your change fatigue problem. Start with fostering a transparent communication culture; leaders should provide clear, honest, and consistent information about the reasons for change, the expected outcomes, and the timelines involved. Equally important is involving employees in the change process, seeking their input, and addressing concerns to make them feel valued and heard. Offering adequate training and resources to help individuals adapt to new processes or technologies is essential to mitigating anxiety and building confidence. Leaders should also recognize and celebrate small victories along the way, reinforcing the positive aspects of change. Organizations need to support the transition to the change the organization is trying to make by establishing support mechanisms such as mentoring, coaching, or employee assistance programs to help individuals cope with the emotional toll of continuous change. By taking a holistic and people-centric approach, organizations can effectively alleviate change fatigue and cultivate a more resilient and adaptive workforce.


Attempting to implement Scaled Agile without understanding basic Scrum principles can hinder any organizations transformation. Scaling Agile requires a robust foundation, and Scrum serves as a fundamental building block. All Agile methodologies were built off the Scrum Guide, Agile Manifesto, and the practices of Toyota Production System.  The lack of comprehension regarding Scrum practices, principles, roles, ceremonies, and artifacts can lead to confusion, misalignment, and suboptimal outcomes. Teams may struggle to synchronize their efforts, encounter difficulties in managing dependencies, and face challenges in maintaining transparency across the organization.

It’s not realistic to expect a 1st grader to do calculus. Why? Because they need the foundational knowledge of arithmetic operation, algebra, and formulas to build up to higher level math like calculus.

Without a grasp of Scrum's core principles, the risk of misapplying Scaled Agile Frameworks (SAFe) or other scaling methodologies increases, jeopardizing the intended benefits of agility at scale. Understanding Scrum and having hands-on experience on a team allows time for adjustment to the new practices, experimentation, and adaptation. Before venturing into the complexities of scaling teams of teams or Agile Release Trains, we need to understand the basics. This ensures a more seamless and successful transition to an agile way of working.


Plan interruptions causing delays in releases is a common source of frustration in program management and development workflows. Unforeseen disruptions, whether they stem from external factors like sudden changes in requirements, technical issues, stakeholder whims, or resource constraints, can impede any meticulously crafted release plan. These interruptions not only lead to missed deadlines, but also disrupt team momentum and increase the likelihood of scope creep. Addressing this pain point requires a proactive and adaptable approach to planning. Teams can benefit from incorporating buffers in their timelines, implementing robust risk management strategies, and fostering open communication channels to quickly address and resolve issues. When working in an agile manner we want to remain flexible, but realistic. If a new work item comes up and truly cannot wait until next sprint then talk with stakeholders, Product Owners, and involve your Scrum Master to facilitate a discussion about which work items are coming off the board to make room for the pressing issue. Keep in mind, a team only has so much capacity and we can’t do it all in a 2-week sprint cycle. Maintaining a flexible mindset works both ways. If a stakeholder expects the team to be flexible then the stakeholder also must be flexible in negotiating the work removal. Adopting agile methodologies can help teams navigate unexpected challenges more effectively, ensuring a smoother path towards successful and timely releases.


Process overhead is a significant challenge faced by organizations striving to foster creativity, innovation, and adaptability. Before starting any transformation effort, it is crucial to identify which processes the organization is ready and willing to change. People within the organization must be willing to make a change otherwise it is like trying to force a horse to drink water or moving a mountain with your bare hands.

When intricate and cumbersome processes become overly bureaucratic, they can stifle the very innovation they intend to facilitate. Excessive documentation, approval hierarchies, and rigid workflows create a burden on teams, diverting their focus from ideation and experimentation to navigating procedural complexities. This can result in a slowdown of decision-making, increased time-to-market, and decreased morale among team members.

To mitigate this pain point, organizations should regularly review and streamline their processes, eliminating unnecessary steps and bureaucracy. Start to think and look at the cost of delay at each step in a process.

Embracing agile methodologies and creating a culture that encourages experimentation and risk-taking. It can also play a pivotal role in striking a balance between maintaining operational efficiency and fostering a dynamic environment conducive to innovation. By minimizing process overhead, organizations can unleash the creative potential of their teams and stay ahead in today's rapidly evolving business landscape.


Becoming a feature factory is a common pitfall in product and service development. Here are some questions to consider before creating any new features:

  • You have created a new feature, but how does it solve the user’s problem?
  • Have you identified the right problem to solve?
  • Are you solving the wrong problem very well?

We don’t want to create new features if the users will never use it, if it becomes cumbersome on the user, or because it was one developer’s brainchild. That baby will be ugly! So, ask yourself – is that baby valuable to the user?

In this scenario, the product team might introduce new functionalities without a clear understanding of the underlying user needs or pain points. This can result in a product that is feature-rich but fails to provide meaningful value to its users. To overcome this challenge, it is essential for product teams to prioritize a user-centered design approach. This involves conducting thorough user research, gathering feedback, and continuously iterating on the product to ensure that each added feature directly contributes to solving real user problems. Striking a balance between innovation and addressing user needs ensures that the product evolves in a way that aligns with the users' expectations and ultimately enhances their overall experience.


 The significance of cohesive collaboration and communication within an organization is highlighted when teams generate components of a solution that are not effectively aligned. When different teams are working on components of a solution without a clear understanding of the overarching goals or alignment with each other, it can lead to disjointed and inefficient outcomes. Misalignment can result from a lack of shared vision, inadequate communication channels, or insufficient coordination among teams.

To address this issue, organizations should emphasize a holistic approach to planning and execution. Establishing clear communication channels, fostering cross-functional collaboration, and implementing agile methodologies that promote regular synchronization and feedback can help mitigate the risk of teams developing disconnected pieces of a solution. The Lean Portfolio Manager should work with Solution and Product Management to create a shared understanding of the overall objectives, solution integration, shared resources, and risks throughout the organization. Each team's contributions should align seamlessly, fostering a more integrated and effective approach to solving complex problems.


Functional silos, where departments operate independently or with limited communication and collaboration, can impede the effectiveness of agile teams. These silos create barriers that hinder the seamless flow of information, leading to misalignment of goals and inefficient workflows. Frequently, functional managers think that the shift to an agile working environment means that they are losing control over employees they manage. This is not true. Functional managers are responsible for upskilling our workforce, evaluating our talent, and guiding our organizations solve problems. Agile teams define the how and when we work on items and functional managers help our workforce maintain our skills to execute.

To overcome this challenge, organizations can implement a solution focused on breaking down these silos. Encouraging cross-functional collaboration helps to foster a shared understanding of objectives – for example, by establishing regular communication channels, such as team meetings and program updates. Additionally, creating a culture that values transparency and emphasizes the importance of collective goals over individual departmental priorities can further dismantle functional silos. By promoting a collaborative mindset and implementing communication strategies, organizations can enhance agility, improve teamwork, and unlock the full potential of their agile teams.


The frequent repetition of efforts across teams impedes overall productivity and resource optimization within an organization. When multiple teams unknowingly engage in duplicative work, valuable time and resources are wasted, leading to suboptimal outcomes. This redundancy can occur due to a lack of transparent communication channels, insufficient visibility into ongoing projects, or inadequate collaboration tools.

To mitigate this issue, organizations should invest in robust solution management systems, foster open lines of communication from the Portfolio level to the teams, and promote a culture of knowledge sharing. Implementing centralized repositories for documentation and encouraging cross-team collaboration can help prevent unnecessary duplication, ensuring that efforts are streamlined, and resources are utilized efficiently across the organization. By addressing this pain point, organizations can enhance productivity, reduce operational costs, and promote a more cohesive and collaborative work environment.

Picture of Dani Linn
Dani Linn
Danielle is a Jacobs Alumna with over 23 years of combined industry and consulting experience with a passion for Agility-at-Scale, Software Development and CMMI to drive effective maturity targets.