Agile 101 – Using Agile on Large Teams

The bigger the company, the bigger the challenges are for scaling Agile. However, it's not impossible. Agile principles can be applied to large, even very large, groups of people, allowing them to be more connected to their work and its impact, despite being part of a huge system.

“Here's the TenStep guest blog post "Agile 101 - Using Agile on Large Teams":

When the Agile movement gained steam in the early 2000’s the conventional wisdom was that Agile worked well on smaller projects but did not scale well for larger ones. This seemed to make sense because as projects get larger and team size increases, the team needs more coordination, more structure, more documentation, etc.

It is true that running a 50-person Agile project will not work if you use the same processes that you use for a 10-person project. But this is true for conventional projects as well. As projects get larger, it is important to change your approach to be able to deal with the complexities. For an Agile project, the first and primary technique is to break the large project into a number of smaller Agile teams. For example, a 50-person Agile project team may be too complex to manage. (Any 50-person team would be complex to manage.) But what if the 50-person Agile team can be reorganized into five 10-person Agile teams (or four 12-person teams)? Each of these teams can be run more effectively using Agile techniques. Each Agile team is not split by role (analysts, designers, coders). Each team has a full staff and is able to work as a “normal” Agile team.

Of course, if you break a larger team into smaller teams, you have to coordinate the work and manage the interfaces and hand-offs. In a traditional project, this would be the job of the project manager and perhaps team leaders on each sub-team. On an Agile project, each team assigns an individual to be responsible for coordinating work with the other teams. This person is sometimes referred to as an “ambassador” since they represent an entire Agile team to the other Agile teams. The ambassador role can be rotated among the Agile team members.

Communication on the large Agile team takes place at two levels. First, each Agile team continues to meet in a daily standup status meeting. This is referred to as a daily scrum. The ambassadors for each team also meet daily. This meeting is sometimes referred to as a “scrum of scrums”. This communication at the team and the project level ensures that each team can work independently while still creating an integrated solution.

Other specialists on each team can communicate as needed.

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