Re: Agile fine until it hits the real world?
When the customer is sat a handful of feet away from you using the stuff you're building and shipping once every week or two it's really rather hard to make the argument that the dev team is "assessing its own progress" or that the product "did not meet the customers needs". I would further propose, based on experience, that the delivery teams and end users are far better placed to report progress than a professional project manager whose sole purpose in life is to change the colour of boxes on his ever-sliding Gantt chart.
This is actually at the root what most Wagile frameworks get wrong - particularly in government. Someone takes on the title of "Product Owner" but they're not empowered to make decisions or knowledgeable enough to represent their peer stakeholders. What you'll usually end up with in the civil service is some mid-level fast-streamer from the IT delivery organisation acting as a classic business analyst. You end up without the iron-clad requirements and specifications of proper waterfall and without the empowered decision maker required by agile processes.
What you need is a decision maker with enough clout to bring round a consensus. Doesn't matter if the consensus is wrong - you fix it in the next iteration. It does matter if you spend 2 years and £200m dithering over requirements to the point nothing ever gets built, fooling yourself that it's ok because "it's agile", during which time the carousel of fast streamers and ever-changing senior senior civil servants has been refreshed four times over.
Guess which one happened here.