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How to Scale Agile - Without Losing the Agility

Scaling is complex. Difficult. Period. Sadly, many organizations see their scaling framework as a silver bullet, a magic fix. Just follow the recipe (SAFe, LeSS, Scrum @ Scale, Nexus), and POOF! You're now Agile, or so some people believe.

Image by  Francois Proulx  via  Creative Commons  license.

Image by Francois Proulx via Creative Commons license.

Just as Scrum without Agile principles is Dark Scrum, scaling frameworks without Agile principles are simply Dark Scaling. I've spoken with many people at large organizations using 'Scaled Framework XYZ', and asked "How much have things changed and improved since you implemented XYZ?"  Too often, the answer is "not much."

Don't get me wrong - there are plenty of good practices contained within the various scaling frameworks. But when those scaled practices are applied blindly, without experimenting and learning, without the Agile mindset, values & principles, the end result is likely to be very much non-Agile.

So what is the solution? Prior to implementing any particular scaling practice, ask how that practice could be implemented in a way that reinforces Agile values & principles rather than sacrificing them.

  • Individuals & interactions over processes & tools

  • Working software (working product) over comprehensive documentation

  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

  • Respond to change over following a plan

  • And don't forget the 12 guiding principles of the Agile Manifesto! 

I strongly believe that the 'secret sauce' of Scrum & Agile is a self-organizing team that is empowered to collaborate closely with real customers & stakeholders (not intermediaries). This holds true at scale, but it's too easy to lose the self-organization, empowerment, and customer collaboration when 'scaling up'.