Scaling Agile is a big decision. We’ve outlined signs that your organization may be ready as well as next steps to get you started on your journey.
Agile is a project management and software development methodology that focuses on creating collaborative environments in which solutions evolve between cross-functional teams. Quick turnarounds, adaptability and repetition, rather than a top-down approach, are key to Agile. It generally starts with a single team and expands to departments and, ultimately, the entire enterprise.
Perhaps you’ve run a successful pilot with a single or a few teams, or maybe you’ve used Agile within your organization for years. The question then becomes: When do you take the big leap to scale Agile?
If you are uncertain of the signs that it’s time to scale, this article will help you determine if it’s time to take the next steps to adopt Agile practices across your entire enterprise. If your organization has noticed one or more of the following, it may be time to scale.
Five Signs Your Organization Needs to Scale Agile
1. Trouble with Dependencies
You may notice your teams work great independently, but they have challenges with dependencies and cross-team collaboration. The cause may be too many interdependencies, leading to teams becoming too reliant on one another.
Departments may struggle to break work into independent deliverables one or two teams can complete within expected timelines, which leads to slow progress and missed commitments. Missing from your practice is the scaled Agile’s coordination and predictability across multiple teams and levels. Companies miss out when they don’t have a standard approach and a common language to collaborate across teams and departments.
2. Team Duplication
A surefire sign it’s time to step up to scaled Agile is if teams unknowingly duplicate work. For example, someone may recreate the same or similar tools rather than creating them once and sharing them. You may also notice problems in common functionalities. For example, teams may build similar APIs for the same purpose but in separate ways depending on which team wrote the code.
3. Problems with Product Cohesion
Another indication you’re ready to scale is if your product lacks a uniform customer experience or doesn’t have a coherent architecture. This lack of cohesion leads to multiple problems, making it confusing for customers to navigate the product and find the services they need. This also makes it difficult for teams to support the underlying applications and add new functionality.
4. Agile Team Effectiveness Not Improving
If you’ve tried diverse ways to increase your teams’ effectiveness but haven’t seen much benefit, you may have reached a point of diminishing returns or where significant effort at the team level leads to minimal improvement.
Development at the individual team level can only go so far before teams begin to create optimizations that slow the overall rate of delivery. When that happens, consider scaling to bring Agile techniques to higher levels of the organization, eliminate systemic problems and increase your overall effectiveness.
5. Lack of Enterprise Business Agility
Finally, if your small teams can’t keep up with changes in the market that demand a shift from simple gadgets to complex solutions, it’s an unmistakable sign you need business agility throughout your enterprise.
You’ll need the right amount of structure and governance to help several large teams working on complex solutions, which may mean bringing your entire organization under one roof and linking all departments, people and work around your business’s value streams.
Before You Scale Agile
You can’t scale bad code – This sentiment also applies to scaling teams. Do not attempt to move ahead with scaling Agile until you have succeeded with one team. The team will only face more challenges when integrating their work across teams into a single product increment.
Even if your team seems to operate well, before considering scaling to future teams, ensure the pilot team:
- Has truly adopted an Agile mindset
- Can operate from Agile and Lean principles
- Has succeeded with its implementation of Agile.
The team should no longer operate on a project basis. You should empower them, allow for self-organization, and they should focus on flow for dependable delivery. To scale well, you also need to confirm you have at least one team that fully embraces automation and can release working software without introducing large amounts of risk or overhead.
How to Scale
You may have heard of a methodology called Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). First introduced in 2011, SAFe’s initial focus was on the software and information technology side of organizations. SAFe now applies to all aspects of enterprises, big and small, to enable quicker decision making, more effective communication, streamlined operations and staying focused on the customer. You can apply and customize it in different organizations with varying levels of agile maturity.
You may want the help of an experienced partner when you scale using SAFe because it’s comprehensive yet not a true blueprint. Although it provides guidance in every aspect of the organization — from managing the enterprise portfolio to how solutions are delivered, you do not have to implement everything it offers.
In fact, You shouldn’t implement SAFe “by the book.” As an organizational leader, you must discern what to apply, so it best meets your company’s needs, and just as critical — your customers’ needs.
Coaches Help Ensure Success
To adopt SAFe and achieve business and technical agility, training everyone from leaders to business, technical and support teams is vital. A good coach in this area will pay off in spades with quicker adoption and stabilization that lead to magnified success.
“An agile coach helps organizations, teams, and individuals adopt agile practices and methods while embedding agile values and mindsets. The goal of an agile coach is to foster more effective, transparent, and cohesive teams and to enable better outcomes, solutions, and products/services for customers,” the 2021 State of Agile Coaching said.
A coach will be a true partner in your journey to scale Agile and will help you realize and sustain your organizational goals.
Knowing when it’s time to scale Agile can be difficult, but if you know the signs to look for, you’ll be better prepared to make that decision. Once you decide it’s time to expand your Agile teams to your entire company, consider SAFe as a method of implementation. Once you begin your journey into scaled Agile, you’ll see the benefits of a collaborative environment in more ways than one.