You may not have adopted a scaling framework yet, but you are likely scaling in one way or another. That is because if your organization is practicing Agile and has more than one team, you are already scaling. The question is -what are effective practices for scaling Agile? Below are 12 successful practices to consider as you continue to scale Agile throughout your organization.
1- Scale Scrum with Scrum - If you are using Scrum, it is best to scale using Scrum itself. Have teams in the organization practice Scrum in a similar manner and have the leadership adopt a similar way of working as well.
2- Align behind a Vision – Few things motivate teams more than fulfilling a greater purpose. A compelling vision unifies the organization under a common objective that becomes its true north. Be sure to create a strategic vision as well as a product vision that is communicated and known by all those involved.
3- Maintain a single Product Backlog – Individual teams maintain their own backlog, but the items must be consistent with and aggregated into a Scrum of Scrum or a program-level backlog. This happens in a two-way communication between the Product Owners of the individual teams and the Chief Product Owner/Product Managers.
4- Establish Effective Scrum Teams – Always start with a high performing Scrum team. Resist the urge to solve your Scrum team problems by adding more teams. Scaling dysfunctional teams will only amplify the dysfunction throughout the organization. This includes mastering the three roles, five events, and three artifacts of Scrum.
5- Empower Development Teams – Scrum at Scale requires trust at scale. It is easy to fall back into a hierarchy as the organization scales Agile teams. The teams and its members must be empowered to self-organize while they work with the new network. Ensure that you are setting the minimum viable bureaucracy to provide guidance and consistent practices. “Minimum” is the important part in this step.
6- Keep a common Definition of Done (DoD) – It is essential for all teams to agree on what it means to be done with a product increment. Therefore, all teams must share a minimum common DoD. The teams then work together to evolve the DoD over time as part of their continuous improvement. When one team expands their DoD, other teams move forward to adopt it until it becomes the new common DoD.
7- Grow Through Mitosis – Some organizations grow by adding projects and hiring new teams. These new teams tend to create their own practices, and over time the organization ends up with variations of Scrum across teams. This can also lead to some products having highly effective teams while other products have “OK” teams. Instead, grow by splitting effective Scrum teams into smaller teams. When a team gets large enough, create two smaller teams to duplicate the effectiveness. Then, add members as needed for the team to remain a cross-functional team.
8- Have an Organization Sprint Pulse – Create product increment flow by synchronizing all teams to use the same Sprint cadence. This means, using the same Sprint lengths as well as starting and ending Sprints on the same day. This creates a predictable pulse that focuses everyone on delivering value through an integrated increment on an ongoing basis.
9- Create an Executive Action Team (EAT) – Scaling Agile requires leaders, not only to support it but to also be active participants in the initiative. Organize a team of executives and Agile change agents that work in a Scrum manner to focus on properly scaling and removing larger impediments that could not be solved by the individual teams.
10- Work with a MetaScrum Team – A MetaScrum team is similar to the EAT by including executives and working in a Scrum fashion. This team focuses on aligning and prioritizing the needs of the customer and stakeholders by creating a single product backlog that is coordinated by the Product Owner network.
11- Establish a Scrum of Scrums Network – The Scrum of Scrums is not a meeting. It is a team of teams formed to coordinate work among the different teams in order to deliver an integrated product increment. This team is made up of representatives from the different teams and works in a Scrum fashion as well.
12- Form a Product Owner Team - The primary function of this team is to maintain a ready product backlog that is coordinated among the different Scrum teams. This is a network of product owners that are maintaining two-way communication and negotiating product backlog items and Sprint goals with the Scrum teams to ensure that priorities are clear but that Scrum teams remain self-organizing.
No two Agile transformations are identical. Scaling Agile, in particular, requires a certain level of customization as the organization coordinates effective team collaboration and prioritization techniques. These are common practices in the Scrum@Scale framework. You can also find a part of these in SAFe. You may choose to adopt them all, or just choose a few, depending on your needs.