Venkatesh Krishnamurthy has an article in March 2007 Agile Journal about top-down commitment in agile adaptation. He defines three layers of stakeholders in organization; Sponsors, Mid Level Management, and Development Team. As a conclusion he presents an argument that highest possibility for successful agile adaptation is a right mixture of bottom-up and top-down strategies. Dave Nicolette reviews the article in his post and shares his experience:
The agile group had started life as a skunkworks operation. When the group was brought back into the IT department formally, IT management dismantled the group and morphed the project process, management tools, and development methods back into conventional ones, although with "agile" labels.
There are propably a lot of stories like that. Based on the initial moderate success in agile adaptation on the technical level, agile gets to be the new silver bullet and buzz word. A new group of people are expected to automatically form a team, jell, and "just do agile". "Just do agile" means that traditional PM starts using agile jargon without bothering to look what these terms mean, not to mention that she would try to master the agile values, principles and practices, adjust them, and further develop them. "Just do agile" seems like a little bit too thin statement regarding that agile adaptation is described to be a paradigm shift, a completely new philosophy requiring a new mental package. "Just do agile" could be called doing practices, but that would be being nice. Instead it is only doing labels as Dave called the phenomenon. Few years back I was teached to avoid new labels, like agile ones, when introducing change. Now I have learned that some people only want new labels. That's probably why the silver bullet business is doing so well. Calling everything agile, Scrum, and/or Sprint is not much of a change, and will not automatically make everything visible, consistent, or reliable. Somehow the point is completely lost. Of course people who expected agile to be a silver bullet or magic wand are going to be disappointed and call agile just another fad. Some people who actual get agile, and understand that it is a bit more than "doing some stuff in 30 or so days and using words like agile, Scrum, and Sprint a lot", are also quite frustrated. Dave's post sets out the more than likely dark symptom of this:
As I write this, just over a year has elapsed since the process of dismantling agile began. Of the 60+ people who were part of the agile group at its peak, only 4 individuals who were in that group are still employed by the company.
It is equally true according to my experience that commitment from all three categories mentioned by mr. Krishnamurthy is needed to continue agile adaptation for any prolonged periods . Both orders in which this adaptation happens have been reported as successful, and yes indeed, also as failures. Mixture of both strategies sounds appealing.
Mike Vizdos writes about similar experiences in his RIP Scrum -post and cartoon. He calls this a "Death by a thousand copies".