Scaling the Impact of the Dojo

Once your organization establishes its dojo and evaluates the value it creates, scaling the experience is a natural progression. In a nutshell, scaling the Dojo experience involves increasing the number of coaches so that more challenges can run simultaneously. But, it’s more than a simple exercise in resource management.

To effectively scale the Dojo experience, three core elements deserve your attention:

  • Upskilling your coaches
  • Correlating impacts to the right metrics
  • Establishing and maintaining the dojo environment

Let’s dig into each one.

Watch our free webinar for a deeper dive into scaling an Agile Dojo

Solidifying your coaching bench

Highly skilled and polished product coaches and technical coaches help ensure success with your first challenges. As you grow, the Dojo should become a venue to recruit talented internal practitioners interested in trying their hand at coaching. Regardless of background, they will likely find that coaching in the Dojo offers unique challenges and opportunities to grow.

For example, the pace inside the Dojo is pretty extreme to newcomers. Coaches take on a new team of participants every three weeks while interacting with each team for the full six weeks of their challenge. This can be daunting to the uninitiated. New coaches will need to consciously consider how to maintain that pace sustainably while avoiding burnout.

Coaches who do best in the Dojo will teach through example, exhibiting a bias toward action. Rather than relying on more traditional training methods like lectures or prefab exercises, these coaches will guide activity following a “show-don’t-tell” philosophy.

Successful Dojo coaches are not just coaches. They are also practitioners who work alongside the teams they coach. They need to have experience and a sound working knowledge of engineering, product discovery, and of course, Agile and Lean methodologies. Of course, no one knows everything, and many coaches specialize in certain areas (such as DevOps tooling, software craft, or product mindset).

A solid “coaching bench” that will support successful scaling should include these kinds of multi-skilled coaches with a range of specialties that can be placed in the optimal position to support a successful Dojo experience. And, strategically partnering less experienced with more experienced coaches can speed up the process through mentorship and support where your more senior coaches engage in “coach coaching” to develop the next wave of talent

Measuring the ROI of your learning culture

It’s essential to measure the right things when running and potentially scaling a Dojo. Measuring the wrong things can provide a false sense of security, leading to several difficulties including securing additional funding, building equity in your dojo brand, and getting to a true “pull-based” dojos where teams use the offering periodically to invest in new improvement. Here are some examples of the wrong metrics:

  • Number of people/teams who have been through a Dojo
  • How quickly the roster of team members moves through
  • Number of coaches trained

These are proxy or vanity metrics;they don’t have anything to say about the actual impact of the Dojo on tangible business outcomes that matter. To find the proper measurements, start with the practices and skills your Dojo has been set up to improve. Identify ways to effectively measure changes in the participants’ skills, abilities, or value created in those specific areas. Some examples of the right metrics may be:

  • Increased frequency of merging pull requests or commits in Git
  • Unit Test Inventory and code coverage increases as a team adopts Test-Driven Development
  • Cycle time decreases as teams learn to work smaller stories or tickets.
  • Pivots to a product plan increase as a team incorporates customer analytics or other feedback loops into their product development.
  • Value increases via metrics specific to the product the team works on, such as revenue generated, claims processed, customer dwell time, or net promoter score.

Over time, in the aggregate, organizations can use these kinds of metrics to determine concrete ROI-related impacts of the Dojo, which they can use to justify scaling.

The goal is to help teams use the data they’re collecting to inform their product and workflow experiments—to actually use the metrics to improve the Dojo and themselves. This changes an organization’s approach to metrics from data that leaders use to compare teams, to the more healthy approach of teams using data to improve themselves. And getting the teams to the point that they are actively involved in the feedback loop is essential to continually improve the Dojo, and therefore, scale it.

Moving to a pull-based Dojo experience

As a brand new Dojo program is getting off the ground, it’s common for teams to be “pushed” into participating. It takes time for the culture to accept this new way of learning and for participants to become avid evangelists for the program. When teams are pushed from the top down, they’re not enthusiastic about it, and they tend to find excuses for not attending or not giving it the attention it deserves.

But, ideally, this will change over time to a “pull-based” model where teams want to join the Dojo and volunteer to participate, even negotiating to free themselves up to be part of it. These participants tend to take ownership of their experience. They are more engaged learners, so they benefit more.

A pull-based demand curve in front of your dojo not only justifies the need to scale, but it makes the experience much more harmonious and conflict-free for teams, coaches, and leaders alike. is

Watch our free webinar for a deeper dive into scaling an Agile Dojo. Or speak to a Dojo expert to explore this solution further.

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David Laribee, Head of Dojos
David Laribee, Head of Dojos