Scaling Agile and Scrum

Understand Scrum is simple. If you don’t know what Scrum is and is not, there is a 17-page definition called Scrum Guide. If you like to know what is agile, go to the four values and 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto. The agile community mostly agrees on both. As scaling increases the complexity, there is no common agreement on how to scale agile and scrum. The good news is that there are many frameworks to choose from. A broad menu of options, and in agile we love options and there is no one way how to do things. So far so good. Some options are easier to apply, some harder, some less agile, some more. But remember Agile is not your goal, it’s just the way how to achieve your strategic goals. So at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. The less agile ways are not necessarily a bad option for given circumstances. Some companies go faster, some slower on their agile journey.

To give you a few examples:

If you have a totally fixed mindset, no collaboration, hierarchical organization, even frameworks like SaFe can be useful. You might not become agile using them, but at least you start moving and changing. As any SaFe implementation didn’t create any magical success, companies keep looking and sooner or later find a better way of working and scaling.

If you have limited experience with self-organization, but like to be modern, cool, aka agile, the Spotify so-called model is a good choice for you. All that awesome terminology of tribes, squads, and guilds makes the job and at least some parts experience a certain level of agility. And step by step, as your mindset becomes more agile you can move towards a more agile way of working and implement LeSS as ING recently did.

A super-simplified tagline for each framework:

SaFe (Scaled Agile Framework) is scaling ‘fake’ Scrum with traditional mindset practices. A good start if you are stuck and need to get moving no matter in the direction, or if all you need is a stamp that you are agile without any change of mindset. It’s easy to implement, and it’s safe as most of the roles are just renamed, not really changed.

Scrum@Scale is mentally very close to SaFe, no real change will happen at the organizational level which remains very hierarchical. Scrum at the team level is rather technical (it’s all about practices), ScrumMaster somewhere between team assistant and manager. At a glance, it looks agile, but the lack of understanding of the self-organization concept will eventually kill any good intent and implementations will fail to bring any expected results.

Spotify is not really a model, but an inspirational story. Nevertheless, ING makes it so popular so every other bank is applying it. The cool terminology helps to spread the message around, and there is a chance that by applying it companies learn what is this agile really about. It’s also a good opportunity to descale your organization a bit and remove several layers of traditional management in exchange for the more flat structure of the above-mentioned tribes and squads.

LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum) is Scrum. It’s the most agile way of how to scale. Similarly to Scrum, it’s simple to understand, hard to apply as you need to have courage, be ready to collaborate, increase transparency, remove silos, and redesign the organization. Do more with less. The good news is that it works. Don’t expect it to be a one-time change. Agile is a journey, and implementing LeSS is very agile so you are going to be on your journey for a while. You can get inspired by the case-studies.

Five books every Agile leader should read before they start Agile transformation

To continue my with my book recommendations (check Five books every ScrumMaster should read and Five books every Product Owner should read), I have several books here, I would recommend every Agile Leader and manager in Agile Organization to read before they start Agile transformation. It’s a mix which will help you to understand Agile Leadership, Agile Organization, it’s structure, design, and culture and allow you to adapt to the different leadership style. Enjoy reading 🙂

  1. Niels Pflaeging – Organize for Complexity: How to Get Life Back Into Work to Build the High-Performance Organization is about complexity and work – and about how to deal productively with both. A condensed introduction to the theory and practice of organizational high performance. A manifesto for contemporary leadership and profound transformation in organizations of all kinds. It is “practically theoretic”, featuring cutting-edge insight. It proposes new language and thinking for a new way of work and organizations.
  2. Frederic Laloux – Reinventing Organizations is a must. The way we manage organizations seems increasingly out of date. Survey after survey shows that a majority of employees feel disengaged from their companies. The epidemic of organizational disillusionment goes way beyond Corporate America-teachers, doctors, and nurses are leaving their professions in record numbers because the way we run schools and hospitals kills their vocation. Government agencies and nonprofits have a noble purpose, but working for these entities often feels soulless and lifeless just the same. All these organizations suffer from power games played at the top and powerlessness at lower levels, from infighting and bureaucracy, from endless meetings and a seemingly never-ending succession of change and cost-cutting programs.
  3. Large-Scale Scrum: More with LeSS is looking at the organizational design from a different perspective. Rather than asking, “How can we do agile at scale in our big complex organization?” a different and deeper question is, “How can we have the same simple structure that Scrum offers for the organization, and be agile at scale rather than do agile?” This profound insight is at the heart of LeSS. In Large-Scale Scrum: More with LeSS, Craig Larman and Bas Vodde have distilled over a decade of experience in large-scale LeSS adoptions towards a simpler organization that delivers more flexibility with less complexity, more value with less waste, and more purpose with less prescription.
  4. The Responsibility Process: Unlocking Your Natural Ability to Live and Lead with Power is about FREEDOM, POWER, and CHOICE. Leadership is innate. The Responsibility Process proves it. The Responsibility Process is a natural mental pattern that helps you process thoughts about taking or avoiding responsibility. How you navigate it determines whether you are leading toward meaningful results or just marking time. This book gives you precision tools, practices, and leadership truths to navigate The Responsibility Process and lead yourself and others to freedom, power, and choice.
  5. Leadership and Self Deceptions shows how most personal and organizational problems are the result of a little-known problem called self-deception. Through an entertaining and highly instructive story, Leadership and Self-Deception shows what self-deception is, how people get trapped in it, how it undermines personal achievement and organizational performance, and- most importantly the surprising way to solve it.