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Pattern: Scale Scrum through Mitosis

Updated: Dec 15, 2021

Pattern: Scale Scrum through Mitosis and amplify your strengths instead of your weaknesses


When scaling Agile, it’s easy to think that all your teams’ problems will go away when you add additional members. The more likely scenario, however, is that your problems will be amplified. If you scale poor performing teams, you are duplicating the poor behaviors that lead to poor performance. As you continue to scale, you end up with a poor performing organization. This problem is often addressed by hiring new members to form new Scrum teams. Unfortunately, this approach has its pitfalls too. It is easy to think that fresh blood will improve current practices. Although this might be true under the right conditions, it’s more likely that your current culture will overpower newcomers and, soon enough, they become a part of the problem.


Great in, Great out

The foundation of a successful Scaled Agile implementation is made of high performing teams. Therefore, a better way to scale and grow your teams is to make sure that your current teams are practicing Scrum effectively. Are they adhering to the rules of the game? Most importantly, are they delivering value continuously? If you answered yes to these questions, you are ready to grow through mitosis.


The Mitosis Pattern


1- Increase your team size - This might sound counter to any guidance you have heard about Agile. Agile coaches on the use of small teams with no more than ten members per Scrum Team. This count includes the Product Owner and the Scrum Master, as per the 2020 Scrum Guide. Having a team of ten members or less allows the team to remain nimble and at the same time be cross-functional. But be careful! A Scrum team that is too small could compromise its cross-functionality since more people will need to have more skills to deliver a full product increment. So, increase your team size to 10 members while maintaining its high-performing qualities. If you are already above this number, then focus on improving the team’s efficiency and effectiveness before going further.


2- Onboard a Scrum Master and a Product Owner – Have the new Scrum Master and Product Owner work with the original team before splitting the team. This will allow the new SM and PO to continue to support the great work the team has been doing so far.


3- Split the Scrum Team – Now that you have a large high performing team, split the team into two teams of four developers, a Scrum Master, and a Product Owner.


4- Add more team members – You can now add new team members to each Scrum team with the peace of mind that the current team members will continue the good habits that made them a great team.




5- Repeat, Inspect and Adapt – You may repeat this pattern to scale as needed just be sure to maintain high performing habits.


Expect the teams to go through a short period of Tuckman’s team formation steps when changes are introduced. These include forming, storming, norming, and performing. But be patient and continue to reinforce the habits that made them a great team. Eventually, they will become a high performing team again and as the pattern is repeated, you’ll have a high-performing Scaled Agile implementation.

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