Three Steps to Scaled Agile

Scaling Agile requires the coordination and collaboration of hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of smart independently minded individuals. To scale Agile, a small set of simple goals are needed that individuals and teams in the organisation can focus on, aware that if they achieve the goal, they are part of something much bigger. They can then use the most appropriate practice to achieve that goal.

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One of the key learnings from our experience at Skype was that we had to keep the process so simple that people did not have an excuse for not following it. If people did not follow the process, it was because they did not want to follow it rather than the process was too complicated and they made a mistake.

To get your head around scaled agile, we need to consider the different “levels” or “concerns” in the organisation:

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So what are those things? What are the goals are each level?

Executives

There is one goal at the executive level:

  1. Ensure that the executives have transparency into the system to ensure that the goals are being met.

Portfolio

There are two goals at the portfolio level:

  1. Ensure that the backlog of Epics (single team and cross team) is strictly ordered (i.e. no joint 3rd priority) based on the constraints in the organisation. One of the key constraints at the organisation level is the capacity of individual teams.
  2. Manage capacity by moving capacity to the constraints, and planning capacity for the future. This involves ensuring that there is capacity in the system to meet any commitments that have been made to external parties.

Team of Teams

The goals at the team of team level:

  1. Deliver Value.
  2. Reduce Lead time for the delivery of value.
  3. Reduce Lead time for fixing production incidents.
  4. Reduce the number of production incidents.

The team of teams level is fundamentally about delivering value.

Team

The goal at the team level:

  1. Ensure that delivery is value focused. That means that each Epics (single team and cross team) should deliver value rather than be bucket for stories.
  2. Ensure that team level delivery is predictable and consistent. Consistent in terms of quality. Consistent in terms of size. Predictable in terms of quantity.

The three steps to Scaled Agile

Here are the three steps to scaled agile:

  1. Get teams to deliver value in a predictable, and focus team of teams on reducing lead time.
  2. Create a system of transparency so that you can see how everyone is progressing to achieve their goals.
  3. Bring business decision makers to come together to prioritise the backlog of Epics (single team and team of team).

These simple rules allow the organisation to coordinate and collaborate without having to understand the entire system. From these simple rules, the organisation can generate complex and speedy responses.

The following practices, tools and thinking tools will help you achieve the goals:

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So what have I missed? Which goals do the organisation need to achieve in order to scale agile? Comments please.

 

About theitriskmanager

A IT programme manager specialising in delivering trading and risk management systems in Investment Banks. I achieve this by focusing on risk rather than cost. A focus on costs can lead to increased costs. View all posts by theitriskmanager

5 responses to “Three Steps to Scaled Agile

  • guywinterbotham

    Mechanism for establishing feedback loops and responding. Establishing learning as an explicit aspect of culture. My preference is through interconnected communities although I’ll avoid the term CoP as its becoming commoditized and diluted.

  • Kevin Jones

    Deliver value, this should not be formed on an opinion of a PO/Exec but based on research and understanding of the end user or customer.

    I’m sure if you asked most people in an organisation, they would believe they deliver value…but do you really?? Is this based on opinion or can you evidence value has been delivered through an understanding of the need, opportunities, removing failure demand, etc

    đŸ™‚

  • mcknight

    What I feel is missing here is setting the goals effectively. So many times getting the right technical person to sit down with the right customer they can brainstorm more efficient ways to achieve the same objectives. If instead we have the face time with the customer at a different level, we have people that are not implementing the solution getting stuck with overdone technical approaches defined at the portfolio level, or one team pushing work onto another team while another takes work away. We end up with portfolio management distributing new customer needs in a way that is not what the basic team wants, and impeding progress.

    I would start from the team and work towards the larger organizations. This seems to imply too much top down planning and not enough of realizing that the team coordination layer and the portfolio coordination layers. Sometimes it is faster for two teams to do the same work, and pick the best implementation to serve as an enterprise model than to have portfolio management obsessed with deduplicating all effort and holding up two teams until a common solution can be devised.

    • theitriskmanager

      Hi, I agree that the team should be involved with the discussions with the customer. Better performance will come from the PO and Teams specifying the Epics but The prioritisation needs to happen at the portfolio level. The decision making mechanism at the portfolio level is less important than the fact that decisions are made and everyone is clear on the priority.

      As stated, I agree that this starts at the team level. No fancy scaling framework will work if the teams cannot consistently deliver value.

  • dowserhead

    Scaling agile is a social problem. How do you get the goodness that comes from meaningful and authentic human relations when the organization gets big?

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