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Before Scaling Up - consider...

Before one scales up their functioning teams (I'm assuming one would not want to scale up non-functioning teams - yet I've seen that done) one should look for alternatives to the scaling problem.
"Scaling Agile methods is the last thing you should do" —@martinfowler, 2003

This scaling problem has been studied:


"In 1957, British naval historian and management satirist Northcote Parkinson [known for Parkinson's law: “work expands to fill the time available for its completion”] painted a cynical picture of a typical committee: It starts with four or five members, quickly grows to nine or ten, and, once it balloons to 20 and beyond, meetings become an utter waste of time – and all the important work is done before and after meetings by four or five most influential members."

Scaling up Excellence

Why Big Teams Suck by Robert Sutton is a Stanford Professor and co-author (with Huggy Rao) of Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More without Settling for Less.

Studied in Academia

"After devoting nearly 50 years to studying team performance, the late Harvard researcher J. Richard Hackman concluded that four to six members is the team best size for most tasks, that no work team should have more than 10 members, and that performance problems and interpersonal friction increase 'exponentially as team size increases'.”

Studied in the Military

"Some organizations learn about the drawbacks of oversized groups the hard way. Retired Marine Captain and former U.S. Senator James H. Webb explained why the “fire team” – the basic combat fighting unit – shrunk from 12 to 4 during War II. Webb wrote in the Marine Corp Gazette that this “12 man mob” was “immensely difficult” for Marine squad leaders to control under the stress and confusion of battle. Coordination problems were rampant and close relationships – where soldiers fight for their buddies – were tougher to maintain in 12-man teams."


Studied in Health Care

"A Harvard Business School study by Melissa Valentine and Amy Edmondson of a large hospital’s emergency department [...] The crowd of 30 or so doctors and nurses who staffed the department at any given time were divided into multiple six person “pods,” each led by a senior doctor or “attending physician.” After the change, information about patients flowed more quickly and accurately and personal relationships improved markedly. Smaller teams reduced confusion and discomfort about who to ask for help and updates."

I think the general lesson learned is to not scale up, because the systems and structures that created and support the current organization will not bare the stress of scaling up.



Some alternatives to Scaling Agile:

Scaling Agile – the Easy Way by Arlo Belshee

Try to re-structure the organization in a way that doesn't require efficiency of scale to achieve the goal. For example WL Gore's organizational pattern a team based flat lattice.

Or Semco, "a Brazilian conglomerate that specializes in complex technologies and services. Semco is a self-managed company. Workers at Semco choose what they do as well as where and when they do it. They even choose their own salaries. Subordinates review their supervisors and elect corporate leadership. They also initiate moves into new businesses and out of old ones. The company is run like a democracy." -- Podular organization: a business within the business written by Dave Gray.


Try a fundamentally radical idea like Holacracy.  "Holacracy is a real-world-tested social technology for agile and purposeful organization. It radically changes how an organization is structured, how decisions are made, and how power is distributed."

Take a lesson from the US Government's FBI Case Management system.

Before you consider the leading market agile/scrum scaling tool-sets like SAFe, DAD etc. try this alternative approach:  Open Agile Adoptions by Dan Mezick author of The Culture Game.

“Scaling is actually a problem of less,” says Sutton in The Do’s and Don’ts of Rapid Scaling for Startups. “There are lots of things that used to work that don’t work anymore, so you have to get rid of them. There are probably a bunch of things you’ve always done that slowed you down without you realizing it.”
See Also:
The Founder Effect
Comparing Scaling Agile Frameworks - CIO 
The Agile Late Majority has different needs
The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) – A Review by Agile Scout
SAFe - but not good enough  by Ron Jeffries
Scaling Scrum: SAFe, DAD, or LeSS? by Peter Stevens
Scaling Agile Development LeSS - PDF by Larman & Vodde
IBM's Disciplined Agile Delivery DAD by Scott Ambler
Scaled Agile Framework SAFE by Dean Leffingwell
A Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe™) Case Study by Brad Swanson
Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) @ J.P. Morgan by Craig Larman and Matt Winn
Case Study of a Difficult Federal Government Scrum Project: FBI Sentinel by M. James
Kanban and its flight levels by Klaus Leopold
Agility Adoption Rather Than Agile At Scale by Oana Juncu
The Folly of Scaling Agile by Rachel Davies
Speaking on SAFe: Thoughts from my Leading Scaled Agile Framework course  by Andrew Clear
Enterprise Agile: Are you Ready by Scott Ambler - DAD slides from Agile2014
LeSS vs SAFe case study at Nokia by Gosei (Ari Tikka & Ran Nyman)
Moving Past the Scaling Myth by Michael Feathers
LeSS is More - SolutionsIQ Agile Amped talk at Agile2015 by Bas Vodde & Craig Larmann
Descaling Organizations with LeSS  by Viktor Grgic
Large Agile Projects by Martin Fowler
SAFe: the infantilism of management by Dave Snowden
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