• Trey Hahn

Barriers to agile working in planning departments - Master's Thesis Part 6

I am sharing what I found in my master's thesis in parts broken down from the research questions. This sixth post shares practitioners' perceptions of barriers to an agile way of working. See prior parts here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. See the full thesis here. Need some background on what agile means? See here.


Blog post 6: Barriers to an agile way of working in planning departments


In order to study under what conditions agile might be adopted by planning departments, I looked at barriers to an agile way of working and tested solutions (see blog post 5). Beforehand, I created a list of common barriers to the adoption of agile from literature (see page 15 in the thesis). Through what I heard in the interviews- and with help from part of the results of the guided questionnaire sessions- I evaluated which barriers were most relevant to the Bicycle Program of the Municipality of Amsterdam. I put these in a table:


Barriers to agile working in Bicycle Program of the Municipality of Amsterdam (red = significant barrier, orange = minor barrier, blank = not a significant barrier)


Two of the main barriers (highlighted in red above) that I found were organizational structure and top management support. Here is some of what practitioners had to say about them:


Some of what practitioners had to say about the barriers I found to be most relevant


To a lesser extent, I found organizational culture, the need for new skills, a shared mindset and detrimental perceptions of agile to also be relevant barriers (highlighted in orange in list above). Here are some things that were said about these barriers:


Quotations about other relevant barriers to agile working in planning departments


Under what conditions might agile be adopted by planning departments in practice?


When the above barriers are addressed (in the case of the Bicycle Program of the Municipality of Amsterdam), agile might be adopted in practice. While the barriers are not insurmountable, overcoming them will require deep change: building a shared mindset in an organization, shifting negative perceptions or changing an organizational structure, for example, are not easy tasks. The amount of work necessary to overcome the barriers will likely depend on the specific organization. The testing of the pattern language and bicycle user experience concepts from blog post 5 reminds us there is no "silver bullet" for it.

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