Retrospective: An Agile Failure in Government Application of Agile


Unfortunately, much too often everyday practice deviates undesirably from ‘‘best practice’’ or what is considered optimal.  While we don't like to admit it, there ARE failures and challenges in applying the Agile philosophy to the US Government and other burecratic organizations.  This working session uses the Agile practice of a Retrospective with the attendees as the team to explore those challenges and actions to take in the next "iteration."


Outline/Structure of the Workshop

Overview of a Cohort Study: Retrospective    

Retrospective Prep/Tools 

Retrospective Workshop


Learning Outcome

Attendees will experience the operation of a Retrospective and will achieve an understanding of the challenges and methods to overcome the use of Agile in burecratic orgnaizations. 

Target Audience

Agile Team Members

schedule Submitted 6 years ago

  • Dave Chesebrough

    Dave Chesebrough - Considerations for Agile Adoption at the Team, Project, and Organizational Levels

    60 Mins

    Change is hard. For any organization, team, or individual, the ability to change is difficult even when the desire for the change exists. Some studies have revealed that even when people know they need to change, even at the risk of their lives, it is still difficult to adopt new practices and behaviors.  Knowing this, what are organizations and project teams doing to make agile adoption easier and how are they supporting the teams and the individual new to this way of developing software products and systems?

    Through a roundtable discussion with representatives from industry and government, we will share with you our experiences with Agile on Federal government projects and programs, the challenges we faced, lessons learned, and different activities we performed as we went through an agile transition. The intent is that our experiences will provide you with ideas that you can take back to your organization and teams to support your agile journey.

    The panelists will share their experiences in bringing agile to their own organizations as well to their government clients.  Topics to be addressed include:

    • What makes adoption easier?
    • Challenges faced and tactics to overcome them.
    • Lessons learned from a broad spectrum of successful, and unsuccessful, adoptions of agile methods in acquisition.


    Dave Chesebrough, President, Association for Enterprise Information


    Dr. Suzette Johnson, PMP, CSP, CSC, Certified (Agile) Scrum Coach, NGIS Technical Fellow and Chair of the Northrop Grumman Agile CoP.  Suzzette leads development of agile practices across programs serving government customers, including DoD and Federal Health IT. 

    Robin Yeman, Agile Transition Lead / SME, at Lockheed Martin where she defines Agile Strategy across capability areas at IS&GS; identifies and implements metrics to ensure results of strategy and enable course correction; develops Agile SMEs to support strategic consulting for program start-up, transition for waterfall, release planning, and execution; teaches and educates all levels at LM to allow LMCO to better meet customer needs; certifies large teams in the Scaled Agile Framework; and provides support in developing Performance Measurement Baseline and Agile EVM.

    Jerome (Jerry) Frese, Program Management Analyst at the Internal Revenue Service, is the organizer of an Inter-Agency Seminar whose purpose is to bring federal SDLC practitioners together so they can establish a network, learn about and share best practices and collaborate on new and innovative ways to support projects. Through the series of nine seminars he has worked with 33 other Government agencies fostering the implementation of agile in Federal IT. In his own agency, he brings 40 years of software development experience to his job the Senior Methodologist at the IRS.    

    James Barclay, Senior Systems Engineer, NGA Architecture & Engineering Group National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

  • 60 Mins

    Estimating how much a project would cost and how long it would take has always been a challenge.  These are critical business questions, and not answering them is not an option.  Estimating large-scale projects is even more difficult and complicated not only because of their large scale and distributed nature, but also due to faulty estimation methods widely used today. Large-scale agile projects consist of several teams (organized into programs and portfolios).  Teams are often distributed. If you are doing story point estimations and generating reports for large-scale agile projects in blissful ignorance of the fact that story point scales used by different teams may not be the same, you will make wrong decisions caused by wrong estimates and metrics.  

    All Agile Lifecycle Management tools expect and assume that the story points entered by you in the tool are "normalized" across teams, i.e., they follow the same scale.   Story points entered into the tool without normalization (garbage-in) will generate meaningless reports and metrics (garbage-out).  

    You may also be hard pressed to estimate portfolios and programs when their stories are not even defined.  This is like estimating something that is unknown!

    I will present solutions to these and other estimation challenges for large-scale agile projects.

    I will present the Calibrated Normalization Method (CNM) for scalable estimation, which I have developed and applied in my client engagements since 2010.   CNM promotes local, decentralized, and autonomous decision making at the team level by allowing teams to use their own story point scales, and normalizing team story points with a novel technique.   I will also contrast and compare CNM with centralized methods and the SAFe method for estimation. 

    I will demonstrate the use of a normalization calculator for doing normalization math needed for bottom-up as well as top-down estimations in large-scale projects.  This calculator has been developed and refined with actual usage; it makes story point normalization calculations very quick and easy, and avoids human errors.  

  • Cindy Shelton

    Cindy Shelton - Organizational Agility

    60 Mins


    We inherently know that organizational agility is a critical necessity for effective government operations if we are to respond to the ebb and flow of political issues. Our creative managers adjust and adapt to accomplish these unforeseen work if they are to be successful and learn to force agility to execute pet projects. Ironically, this type of agility eventually results in functional redundancy and inefficient workflow as large organizations simply cannot stop to adapt and adjust their internal infrastructure to the rapidly changing demands of business. Their business processes, structures, and systems act as barriers to efficiency and common-sense decision making. These internal barriers can trap capable people who eventually become cynical and disheartened by their inability to change or influence obvious gaps, inconsistencies, or burdensome constraints within the organization. In this situation, it is prudent for the organization to re-think its organizational design and evaluate work to realign appropriately to the needs of the organization. Consultants, frameworks and models are easy to throw money at, but rarely result in the return on investment anticipated by the effort and expenditures. A better method is to use internal resources (retain intellectual capital) and implement work practices that provide visibility into work being accomplished so they may be valued against other work for better decision making and effective use of available funds. This session provides an operational framework for that method using existing organizational frameworks and applying structured processes that can be incrementalized.