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Agile at scale generative principles

for digital products and services development

These principles aim to codify years of wisdom and experience from the broader lean-agile community. In order to be a North Star that provides guidance and directions needed when adopting a pluralistic approach toward frameworks, practices and patterns.

Principles summary

Part 1: The role of the first four principles is to test the need for scaling and
at the same time create the conditions to start scaling on the right foot.

1) The fundamental law of scaling: scaling the wrong way hurts.
Scaling amplifies the bad and makes the good more difficult.

2) Artificially aggregated or unrelated product concerns are better disentangled.
Tangling unrelated product’s concerns (e.g. feature bloat of unrelated features, or the coupling of
two distinct products) rapidly increases the number of teams involved, complexity & failure rates.
In software and digital products development, diseconomies of scale
are more common than economies of scale.

3) Accidental complexity should be continuously removed resorting to tech excellence.
Pursue technical excellence and simplicity, and
tame accidental dependencies that are detrimental.
Decouple teams, for example, adopting practices such as
collective code ownership or internal open-sourcing.

4) Scaling should be considered only before a compelling reason, as a means, not an end.
Test your assumptions about the expected benefits of scaling.
A decline in productivity is a common consequence.
Aim to scale the productivity, the impact, the fitnesses for purpose.
Not the size, not prematurely, not in anticipation of demand.

Part 2: The role of the remaining principles is to point toward a direction of travel
to scale successfully and sustainably.

5) Scale effective collaboration over structures and processes. Not by imitation.
People and their collaboration (between teams, departments, business units, branches)
are the most important and adaptable element of an organisation.
The more complex a system is, the more crucial their contribution is.
Grow a learning organisation. Shift the mix of people from followers to changers and creators.

6) Don’t scale it, until you nail it.
Start small and make it work first. Until then, there is nothing to scale.
A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked.
Take inspiration from Lean, Kanban, and all the lightweight
Agile frameworks (see eXtreme Programming, Scrum, etc.)

7) Scale experimenting, learning, adapting, evolving guided by lean-agile & CAS theory.
Create a safe-to-fail environment to experiment, learn, adapt and evolve inspired by relevant CAS principles:
a) Scale-out, not up; b) Align incentives and purpose; c) Facilitate the creation of collaboration protocols (teams, departments, etc);
d) Allow heterogeneity instead of aggregation by standardisation; e) Allow diversity while preserving the coherence of identity;
f) Distribute information, sense-making and consensus-building; g) Dis-intermediate decision making;
h) Let structures emerge from the interactions; i) Find the right level of granularity;
j) take inspirations from diverse frameworks and other sources of relevant patterns and practices.

8) Scale always has a hard limit.
There is a limit to the number of people and teams
that can be added to an initiative to increase value delivery over time.

9) Decisions should be informed by indicators.
Monitor the impact of scaling using a set of indicators
based on a mix of quantitative and qualitative metrics.

Access the full document,
where you can comment and suggest improvements

This is the GoogleDoc => Agile at Scale Generative Principles GoogleDoc (https://tinyurl.com/s-principles, https://tinyurl.com/FreeStyleScaling, https://tinyurl.com/AgileAtScaleGP)

Our heartfelt thanks
to the many contributors that helped us to improve these principles, and to teach us something in the process.
Their contributions don’t imply an endorsement or consensus on the current status of the principles.
– the XP 2020 21st International Conference on Agile Software Development
– the XTC Extreme Tuesday Club London
– Sunil Mundra
– Andrea Tommasini
– Dave Snowden
– Thoralf Klatt
– Patrick Kua
– Andrew Holm
– Saleem Siddiqui
– Brett Ansley
– Mike Burrows

Important background information

How large successful companies achieve agility at scale
Netflix, LinkedIn, Microsoft, HP Laserjet Firmware, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Spotify

The results of companies migrating to heavy-weight scaled frameworks and off-the-shelf platforms

More information

Scaling Agile: How Many Teams Are Too Many?

Agile simplicity Vs not-reinventing the wheel

A gentle introduction to complexity thinking: a collection of videos/articles/books

Video playlist Freestyle Scaling

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Agile practices & patterns for the whole Organisation

SAFe: a collection of comments from leading experts

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