Today many organizations are using Agile with Scrum and Lean with individual teams. Scaling occurs when organizations need to create solutions that require multiple agile teams to work together to implement that solution. The number of dependencies across teams increases as the number of teams increases. There are several frameworks defined to help guide these organizations to implement complex solutions that require multiple teams. Two widely used frameworks are SAFe V4.0 (://scaledagile.com/) and Nexus (https://www.scrum.org/Resources/The-Nexus-Guide).
How can you determine if your organization is ready to start scaling? First, it is important for organizations to have successful experience with small agile teams. You do not want to build upon poor practices when scaling up. Once you are confident in your small agile teams, leadership will need to be addressed. There are changes that need to occur at the program and portfolio levels, and the organization as a whole needs to be committed to this effort and the changes that will happen in making it work. There will be changes to the organizational structure where managers become leaders, so that they can focus on motivating and leading their teams. These leaders need to be trained in the agile framework and believe in the servant leadership that enables self-directed agile teams to succeed. Jeff Sutherland, the originator of Scrum, says that organizations that are successful at scaling agile do a few key things. Mainly, they focus on the mission, subordinate everything to good performance, look for basic problems in the system, and continuously integrate and automate testing.
In preparation for scaling agile in the organization, it is important to have experience with implementing agile on the team level. This is because the same principles that apply at the team level also apply at the organization level. These are areas such as continuous integration, focus on delivering working software, having collocated teams and continuous improvement. Performing this on the enterprise level requires that organization to be willing & motivated to implement this change.
If you plan to use a framework like SAFe or Nexus, the teams will need to receive training in these areas. This training is for all stakeholders and it is critical for the organization to buy-in to this new approach. In addition, you may want to consider bringing on a coach who is experienced in implementing these frameworks.
If you do not have experience with Agile, then start with a small team. Get the stakeholders involved and show them how scrum can help with their problems. Define how the team will work together by using a framework. Every organization is different and teams will have to work to enhance their approach through regular reflection.
Be prepared to continuously improve. The organization must regularly review its work and be open to looking for areas of improvement. Once these areas are recognized the organization can try to define solutions to address the issues and work to act on those changes.
Anexinet is a leading professional consulting and services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions around digital disruption, analytics (and big data), and hybrid and private cloud strategies. Anexinet brings insight into how technology will impact how business decisions will be made and how our clients interact with their customers in the future.
Mike Kushner, MKushner@anexinet.com
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