Feb 162016

[All posts in this series: 1, 2, 3, 4]

Continuing on the agile framework discussion that Tom and Maurizio have started…

Agile frameworks are indeed something that many organizations are now considering. Some of these organizations believe they have been doing agile well at the team level and are now starting to apply agile across their organization. Others are just starting their agile transformations and simply want to do it right the first time.

To satisfy the needs of these organizations, numerous agile frameworks are now on the market. Most, if not all, have worked someplace and are the result of someone codifying that experience. But just because it worked in other places, how do you know if it will be right for you? Most frameworks focus on scaling, but unfortunately when it comes to scaling agile there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Consider all agile frameworks a useful set of patterns and not a rigid set of practices.

Organizations come in many shapes and sizes, with many different organizational structures, product sets, skillsets, and cultures. While it is possible that one of the existing frameworks may work for you pretty much out of the box, I suggest proceeding with caution.

Some frameworks are heavier than others. Heavyweight frameworks contain many practices, many roles, and are very prescriptive. I consider heavyweight frameworks akin to an upscale ‘all you can eat buffet.’ Everything looks good when you look at each item individually, but if you try to take some of everything you’ll probably wind up bloated, slow, and sorry in the end.

Lighter-weight frameworks suggest fewer practices and are far less prescriptive. It is more like ordering off the menu, ordering only what you want to try at the moment.

I suggest building your framework a la carte. Start with only what you need and pull in practices from the various framework menus as needed. Wait until you identify an issue that needs to be resolved and then look toward all of the frameworks for examples of patterns that would best solve that problem.

Heavy or lightweight, most of the popular agile frameworks are scrum-like at the team level, also support kanban, and suggest XP technical practices, so if your teams are doing those agile practices well, you are well on your way.

So the first question to ask is: Are your teams doing agile well?

It is worth the time to answer this question honestly because the fundamental rule of scaling is: Don’t scale bad agile.

Before scaling it is best to learn what good agile looks like at the team level within your organization. Once you know what it looks like and can duplicate the success to another team, you are ready to look at scaling across the organization.


Don MacIntyre

Don MacIntyre is a Senior Consultant with Cutter Consortium's Agile Product Management & Software Engineering Excellence practice. With experience in both the commercial and government sectors, Mr. MacIntyre is an accomplished software executive and change agent with deep Agile knowledge. As the Agile Transformation Lead at Lockheed Martin, Mr. MacIntyre led the Agile transition at the largest provider of IT to the US federal government, where his work encompassed coaching, training, and developing a model to support large-scale adoption. He spent his early years as an engineer at HP, ultimately leading a globally distributed organization developing HP’s high-availability file server.


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