Agile articles and info from our Agile Practice team

By: Damon Poole, Chief Agilist

What do all of the most popular Agile frameworks (Scrum, XP, Kanban) have in common? Everything in them is within the context of a single team! Not only that, but they are mostly silent about anything outside of the team such as how projects get funded and how teams get managed.

Ok, so there’s the “Scrum of Scrums.” But that’s just a single practice and it isn’t part of the Scrum Guide, it is simply a commonly used practice. So, how does Agile apply outside of the teams themselves? What is an Agile way to coordinate the work of multiple Agile teams? What needs to change outside of the teams to properly support Agile teams? In other words, how do people “go Agile” today outside of just applying Scrum, XP, and/or Kanban?

The simple answer is that people “roll their own” organizational Agile practices with or without the help of an Agile expert. A common way to accelerate this process is to bring in an outside expert that has already been through multiple “roll your own” exercises and can leverage those past experiences.

Multi-Team Agile Practices and Recommendations

If you compare the experiences and the recommendations of Agile experts, aka “Agile Coaches,” related to scaling Agile outside of the single team, certain patterns emerge. Simply writing down and sharing the list of typical practices and recommendations actually goes a long way towards accelerating Agile adoption. Here is a short sample of some of those practices and recommendations.

  • Scrum of Scrums, aka Standup of Standups – the defacto multi-team practice. Helps to keep multiple cooperating teams aware of cross-team issues and interdependencies.
  • Retrospective of Retrospectives – for the same reasons that having a standup of standups is a good idea, a retrospective of retrospectives is also a good idea.
  • Test Driven Development – helps to get stories to done faster. Getting stories to done faster makes it easier to synchronize the work between multiple teams.
  • Incremental funding – incremental funding is better aligned to incremental releases.
  • Adding team-based metrics and compensation – you get the behavior you measure and reward. If you don’t have a component of your metrics and compensation that is team based, you are less likely to get team-based behavior.

Multi-Team Agile Frameworks

Recently, there has been a surge of interest in off-the-shelf frameworks that address the issues of moving Agile beyond individual teams, and there are actually a growing number of these frameworks. Most of these frameworks include many of the practices and recommendations listed above. Here is a quick overview for reference.

  • Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) – a highly detailed framework from Dean Leffingwell that introduces concepts such as the “Agile Release Train (ART).”
  • FW-1 and FW-2 – lightweight frameworks from Larman & Vodde described in their book “Practices for Scaling Lean & Agile Development”.
  • Enterprise Scrum – a framework from Scrum.org that is set to be launched very soon.
  • Enterprise Agility – a lightweight mix-and-match framework from Eliassen that can be used in conjunction with other frameworks. It covers both the business and software/IT aspects of the SDLC and includes an approach to Agile transformation based on the Kotter change model.

Please note that there are other frameworks out there, this list only includes frameworks that specifically call out practices related to coordinating the work of multiple Agile teams. Which framework you use in your organization is up to you. It is nice to know that there are multiple choices out there, much like Scrum, XP, and Kanban. And, just as with Scrum, XP, and Kanban, Eliassen supports all of the multi-team Agile frameworks.

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