Recipe for success for Scaled Agile: The right team cut

team cut

Recipe for success for Scaled Agile: The right team cut

More than 90% of companies in Germany have already had initial experience with agile methods (Lünendonk Study 2019). For many, after successful pilot projects, the question arises of how to roll out agility across the board, or to larger organizational units. My colleague Jochen Dannemann drew a schematic of the six phases of agile transformation. In this scheme we are at phase 4 – expansion to additional areas.   

The central questions in this phase are: How must the teams be put together so that they can work together effectively? What framework conditions are there or need to be worked out? And: How do you ensure the commitment of the employees involved for such a large change project? I would like to give some food for thought on these questions.

From pilot projects to scaling

"Pilot teams" are usually made up of volunteers who are curious or already experienced in agile working. Participation in itself is motivating for these teams. Few external dependencies, a high degree of autonomy at work and the freedom to work experimentally past existing structures form an attractive basis for successful projects.

But the framework conditions in a scaled environment are different:

  • Scaling will necessitate or require structural changes in the way teams work together.
  • The teams move in a larger, more complex context with interfaces in "non-agile" business areas.
  • Not all those affected will work voluntarily in a new structure.

So how do you scale agility across multiple teams?

The factors for the success of an agile transformation lie in the teams, the individual employees and the support of the management to enable the optimal structures. These include, for example, the specification of the framework conditions such as necessary competencies, team size, tasks and areas of responsibility as well as the future work organization.

Team cut by component, feature or product? Or after all three?

Depending on the circumstances, teams can be cut according to components or features or products. Hybrid solutions are now also being used.

The decisive criterion for this question is the reduction of interfaces and dependencies of the teams.

The most promising thing is to turn the employees from those affected into participants and to actively involve them in the process. In this way, they can discuss together which skills, experiences and competencies they need in a team in order to create added value as independently as possible. In addition to a higher level of commitment, this also means that not all specialists (e.g. software testers) are in the same team.

The Agile Marketplace – Course of a workshop on team cuts

Once the framework conditions have been established, those responsible will advertise their new team and topic at the start of a one- or two-day workshop. Employees can look at the various topics and compare them with their skills and interests in order to then decide for themselves where they would like to contribute their strengths. However, many find it difficult to assess their own competencies. Methodologically, an individual strength analysis with a comparison of self-image and external image can provide support here.

At the same time, this type of team formation enables teammates to get to know one another. The team cut is then after inspect and adapt principle completed and represents a first hypothesis of how the cooperation can work.

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One of the major challenges when scaling agility is getting employees on board. No matter which criterion is used for editing - my experience shows how essential it is for motivation and later cooperation to involve everyone involved in this process.