Karl A L Smith

human knowledge belongs to the world

Agile does not Scale

Agile does not Scale it Consumes

Agile does not Scale, first let’s be clear what scaling means, before I’m tarred and feathered.

Some Definitions of Scaling

Scaling technique is a method of placing respondents in continuation of gradual change in the pre-assigned values. All the scaling techniques are based on four pillars, Order, Description, Distance and Origin.

Psychologist Stanley Stevens developed the four common scales of measurement: nominal, ordinal, interval and ratio.

Agile is based on a team working together as a group of unique individuals with various types of skills and competencies, personal drivers and aptitude. So each team is unique at each point in time based upon how the work is constituted and how they respond to it. 

It will be possible to make some generalisations about the group. “they did 4 features in one quarter” however in the next quarter “they did 2 features” does the features delivered define their effectiveness or are there other factors in play? This is often the point at which a fatal error is made to utilise Story Points as a universal measure when in fact they are so subjective to be worthless outside of the team who generated them. However that is an Agile Metrics conversation which will be covered in another post.

Becoming an Agile Organisation

Agile does not Scale
Agile does not Scale it Consumes

If Agile does not scale how do you deploy it across an organisation?

Agile does not Scale it Consumes, in my book a short guide to Agile Transformation published in March 2021 I make it clear that;

So, the term scaling is a bit misleading you can’t actually scale a transformation what you need to do is absorb slices of the company into the transformation. Only by bringing new slices into a functional ecosystem is it possible to define the common or unique patterns and antipatterns of that new slice and conduct the service design required to mesh it into the already functioning slices of the business.

Agile is not defined externally to a team. It is the team dynamic that creates a flow of work to continually deliver value. Each team will be different and will never sync (except if someone fakes the numbers) with each other. Teams over time become highly performant but cannot be duplicated as teams are people and people cannot be duplicated.

If so how is Agile managed? Agile does not require management in fact one of the values of Agile is to remove management and rededicate people in management activities towards supporting teams instead of telling people what to do. In Agile, management is replaced with a backlog of work and the teams self manage through sprint planning and quarterly planning. Oversight is gained through machine based reporting and HR once again becomes the relationship managers for staff and the company.

If Agile cannot be scaled what’s happening now?

Agile was created to remove the impediments to the flow of work. Well those impediments have hit back by stealth and created a load on unnecessary management exercises and processes, some embodied in software.

If your replacing one hierarchical ecosystem that impedes the flow of work, you should ensure your not replacing it with another that does the same thing.

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