5 Agile Anti Patterns That Distributed Teams Should Avoid

Agile anti-patterns to avoid

As agile becomes a predominant part of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), the methodology also brings to the fore the challenges of handling the agile anti-patterns at every level of the process. Anti-patterns are apparent and familiar fixes for common problems in an agile workflow, which turn out to be counter-productive to the process. They may appear to offer a solution to a problem at hand but have several underlying inconsistencies.

Agile software development lifecycle

How can Teams Avoid Agile Anti-Patterns

A potential solution turns into an anti-pattern when it does not offer a suitable fix, or it is repeated too many times for a negative impact. However, anti-patterns do differ from malpractices – they are not incorrect remedies to the existing problem, but rather cause issues when used too frequently. So how would you fight an enemy you can’t see? Well here are 5 of the most common agile anti-patterns and tips to avoid them:

1. Miscommunication

The agile model is designed to be an interactive workflow methodology that allows for input from the customer at every stage. This communication happens within teams as well as between the client and the partner company. It is the responsibility of the client to convey the requirements of their customers to the developers. Lack of clear communication can kill a project and hamper the morale of the teams. A survey conducted on business professionals showed that 30% missed deadlines due to communication issues.

30% missed deadlines due to communication issues

One approach towards solving this is to make sure that everything is documented in detail and can be referred to at a later date. A great way to get the whole team together is doing mob programming. This is especially effective when tasks have to be handed over to different members. Additionally, it is very important to set communication goals that are inclusive and disseminate information across the teams involved.

2. Unclear Requirements

While building a product, requirements, or tasks that the team members should pick up are discussed by the manager during every sprint. The development team then decides the number of tasks it can take up. If the sprint planning meetings are attended with vague requirements, they can result in incorrect project planning. A non-details requirement can be perceived in many ways, and hence the feasibility of it can vary for different members. This can lead to the team coming up with an incorrect version of the finished product. And if they continue under these circumstances, there can be a lot of rework involved, thus making the process counter-productive.

Besides being transparent and detailed about the requirements, it is also essential to break down the tasks to know what is feasible and maintain a backlog of those that cannot be completed during a certain sprint so that the teams can get back to them during the subsequent meetings.

3. Improper Backlog Serialization

Once the team of developers receives the backlog, they are broken down into finer requirements to proceed with the plan. The backlogs should be organized serially to streamline the workflow. On average, only 10% actively and regularly refine their backlog. If the backlogs are not accurately prioritized, it can lead to complexities at a later stage.

It is the responsibility of the product owner to arrange the backlogs according to their importance and dependencies. The optimum solution is to increase interaction between the team and the product owner to discuss priorities. Not to forget, there can be a new set of requirements mid-way, and the ones discussed can continue to keep evolving. In the case of any confusion, the product owner should be approached immediately for clarification.

4. Lack of Decorum

Projects are often a collaboration between teams that are within an office as well as placed in multiple geographies. Hence, remote communication is a must. Connectivity issues and power outages often hinder online meetings. But the main concern lies in etiquette. Using considerate language in messaging and mails, refraining from causing interruptions, and being receptive to each other’s thoughts and remarks can build a healthy environment, especially for remote teams.

An approach to this could be to conduct frequent training for members to help them abide by the correct etiquettes and protocols. Arranging coaches to teach proper netiquette can bring considerable changes. This way, your entire team gets to contribute to the project, which can increase efficiency, and no one feels left out.

5. Definition of Done

This is the most important aspect of an agile methodology. Here the definition of done (the minimum requirements that define the completion of the project to meet the standards and quality of the client) must be frozen before it is undertaken. This is the single most essential part of the agile process. Without a clear cut definition of done, your employees will be developing a product without being able to fully visualize the end product. 35% of projects fail due to inaccurate requirements gathering.

Many projects fail due to inaccurate requirements gathering

The common practice is to begin the agile development with a half-baked definition in order to speed up the business. But, in the long run, any effort put in before fixing the definition of done is counter-productive.
It is the product owner’s job to finalize the definition of done before the project starts. This is the first step to the development life cycle. No alternate solution should be implemented.


Anti-patterns can occur at any stage of a process. These problems are very frequently faced by businesses during an agile project. Anti-patterns cleverly disguise themselves for quick fixes for common issues but turn out to be inefficient in the final analysis. Short-term thinking is the biggest factor responsible for anti-patterns. However, you can avoid these indistinguishable enemies by a few changes in your methodologies and building a long-term vision for the project’s success.

Contact net Solutions for Agile Product Development.

Ashish Dhawan

About the Author

Ashish Dhawan is working as a Business Analyst at Net Solutions. His major interest and experience lies in the healthcare domain and enterprise-related applications.

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