I’m working with a number of companies using agile methods that have between 10 and 20 teams all working on the same product/project/program. They didn’t start small. These aren’t cases of organically growing from one good agile team to many good agile teams. Rather, these are organizations that have grown up in a non-agile approach and now want to reap the benefits of agile with their many teams. What is interesting is that these organizations all have some common problems and then all have some unique problems. There isn’t an obvious prescription for how they should be doing their agile implementations. I hope to write a few articles about scaling agile and scrum, and this one is our starting point: what reading should you do if you find yourself in the situation of trying to build a large agile organization.
First, we start with some online resources. One of the most popular is the e-book “Scrum and XP from the Trenches” which is now available on InfoQ (you can purchase a bound copy as well). In this fabulous experience report, we are told the story of an organization which used a practical, simple and effective approach to scaling Scrum.
Next, we move along to Jeff Sutherland’s experience report on a Scrum implementation which is both large and distributed geographically. In this paper, we see that Scrum can be be used even if the members of a single team are spread around the world. It is important to understand that this is merely possible, and certainly not ideal!
Mike Cohn has written a brief article about the Scrum-of-Scrums meeting which is used to coordinate among multiple teams when scaling scrum. Mike recommends that the meeting be held less frequently than daily. I have seen daily work well, so don’t discount that. It depends on a few things: the shorter your sprint length, the more frequently you should hold the Scrum-of-Scrums meeting, and the earlier you are in the project the more frequently it should be held.
In a series of talks by some of the luminaries of the agile world, Martin Folwer’s talk on why you might not want to scale agile is an important counterpoint to the overall theme. The summary of his talk is near the end of the page. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a transcript of the actual talk itself.
I have written a couple articles here on Agile Advice on this topic: Scaling Agile Projects which discusses the dimensions of coordination needed across your multiple teams, and More on Scaling Agile which talks about comparing team performance and issues around software architecture in multi-team projects.
Another article I wrote is just a set of conference notes from the 2005 Scrum Gathering. Here are the conference notes. In order to find the bits about scaling, you will have to do some in-page searches with the text in quotes (use Ctrl-f or Cmd-f or the like):
- “15 observations for big companies” – here Pete Deemer from Yahoo! talks about some of the factors for successfully rolling out scrum in a (very) large organization.
- “Tim Dorsey Wildcard Systems from Florida” – here we get the story of an already large organization that does an “instant” transition to Scrum across the board… yes, they were in crisis!
- “Bob Schatz â€“ implemented Scrum at Primavera” – this is an interesting story of how the project management software company Primavera discovered that they needed Scrum!