Scaling Agile Practices to the Enterprise

Applying an Agile framework to multiple teams at once, and in coordination, is often referred to as “Scaling Agile”.  This tends to be most common with the Scrum framework, but many good practices can be scaled.

There are a number of formal approaches to scaling Scrum.  Here are a few of the common formal approaches:Scaling Agile

  • Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)is a framework designed for complex organizations to achieve Lean-Agile development at scale. SAFe utilizes product owners, time-boxed iterations, and collaborative ceremonies.  Larger numbers of teams, known as an Agile Release Train (ART), work in tandem to deliver value on an iterative basis, known as a Product Increment.  Certain support roles are also defined, such as Release Train Engineer and Product Manager.
  • Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS)applies a Scrum-style small product development approach to large product development, adding scaled ceremonies where necessary. The goal is to scale collaboration on a single release while still allowing each team to own its own methods for development.  This creates coordination of product delivery without being disruptive of team culture.
  • Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD)is a complex framework consisting of three phases (Inception, Construction, and Transition) as well as four “lifecycles” (Agile Basic, Lean/Advanced, Continuous Delivery, and Exploratory). Though DAD is most comparable to SAFe, DAD goes further to address the varying impacts of transitioning to such a framework.  DAD also blends elements of Scrum, Lean/Kanban, and DevOps to apply the right methods to the right situations.

You do not have to embrace a formal methodology to begin seeing the benefits of Scaling.  There are certain core elements that can be used to begin scaling across teams that practice Scrum and have a need to collaborate frequently, such as on large projects.  The easiest way to begin embracing a scaled Scrum scenario is to adopt scaled ceremonies that run concurrent to team ceremonies.

The three core ceremonies to coordinate with multiple teams are:

  • Scaled Planning: The involved teams should conduct a group planning session, in which they break down the key deliverable(s), as defined by the product owner and/or roadmap. Teams determine which pieces they will own during the increment and commit to doing so.  Then, teams hold individual planning sessions to break down and estimate the work at the story level.
  • Scaled Review: Teams collaborate on producing a single review session for the increment. Each team takes a turn presenting their key outcomes for the increment.  Someone also should show the overall roadmap and how the items discussed in the review contribute to the larger goals of the teams.
  • Scaled Retro: This is slightly different in that all teams’ members do not participate.  Instead, the Product Owners, Scrum Masters, and key leaders participate in a group Retrospective to identify ways the overall organization can better support the scaling Agile activities.  This is often based on feedback from teams, as well as individual observation.

To implement these methods of scaling, you will first want to identify which teams work together on a regular basis, or will work together for a project duration of multiple months.  Then, work with the respective Product Owners (and Scrum Masters) from those teams to align core ceremonies in an overlapping or synchronized sprint schedule.  Conduct an initial roadmap session to identify common goals and objectives, then begin with a scaled planning.  Use the shared Review ceremony to highlight the roadmap and which components were delivered in the most recent increment.  Finally, don’t forget to conduct a Retrospective every increment.

Regardless of the method you choose, remember that Agile delivery is about doing what is valuable.  Feel free to experiment with scaling Agile to find what works best for your organization.

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) Transformation

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Jeremiah Hopkins
Jeremiah Hopkins