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InfoQ Homepage Articles Book Review and Author Q&A on Scaling Agile: A Lean JumpStart

Book Review and Author Q&A on Scaling Agile: A Lean JumpStart


Scaling Agile: A Lean JumpStart is a short and informative book about scaling Agile methods by Sanjiv Augustine.

It covers an essential set of Lean building blocks as a starting foundation for larger Agile scaling frameworks, including the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS), and Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD).  Its topics run as follows:

  • Can we scale Agile methods up from teams?
  • Scaling Agile requires changing the system
  • Scaling Agile - starting Lean
  • Overview of scaling techniques and frameworks

In this book, Sanjiv talks about the building blocks as an essential foundation for larger frameworks.

These building block practices are:

  1. Limit work in process (WIP)
  2. Manage the flow
  3. Grow small, stable teams
  4. Build a network of teams
  5. Improve continuously

By building essential discipline around this set of key practices, we can greatly enhance the chances of successfully scaling our Agile adoptions. Once these practices are in place, scaling using one of the frameworks becomes much simpler, and represents an easier organizational transition.

The book then talks about scaling Agile methods. He mentions that scaling Agile requires changes in mindset and organizational culture that have to be driven by systemic changes to organizational structure and processes. Scaling Agile requires extending and amplifying Agile methods beyond the team at the program and portfolio levels according to Sanjiv.

The book covers following scaling methods in his book:

  • The Scrum of Scrums Meeting
  • The Lean-Agile Program Management Office (PMO)
  • The Spotify Model
  • The Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®)
  • Large Scale Scrum (LeSS)
  • Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD)
  • Scaled Professional Scrum - Nexus™

Several scaling methods exist, ranging from almost ad-hoc to very prescriptive. The best method is one that is customizable to the organization, and that can be continuously improved through incremental adaptation. As adoption of Agile methods in the industry continue to evolve,much energy has shifted to scaling techniques and frameworks. These range from the simple Scrum of Scrums technique, to the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®), Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) and Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD).

InfoQ interviewed Sanjiv about his book and discussed his viewpoints.

InfoQ: What made you decide to write a book on scaling Agile?

Sanjiv: I’m finding that, with a growing proliferation of tools, techniques and frameworks, there increasing confusion about how to scale agile up from team to program and the enterprise.  In particular, I discovered that there was no good reference for managers and executive on how to get at the fundamentals of scaling Agile methods.  I kept the book to an “executive-sized” airplane read. 

InfoQ: Why are organizations looking to scale Agile methods? What are the challenges in implementing Agile at the enterprise level?

Sanjiv: After investing in agile teams for months, and often years; organizations are looking at leveraging that investment to drive productivity, speed to value and innovation at scale. That is, they are seeking to unlock the potential of multiple teams and groups working together for a compounded effect.  As for challenges with enterprise adoption – that’s in the book. 

InfoQ: You emphasized Lean Thinking in your book. Please explain why Lean thinking is important in scaling Agile.

Sanjiv: Agile methods like Scrum and XP are designed for teams. They are clear prescriptions for us to build high-performance teams, and have worked exceptionally well at building awesome teams for over 15 years. Now to go beyond teams, existing frameworks like the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and Large Scaled Agile (LeSS) tap into Lean Thinking.  That is, we all believe in using the principles from the Toyota Production System (TPS)  a.k.a Lean Thinking to scale Agile beyond the team.

InfoQ: You described all the existing scaling Agile frameworks. Would you like to recommend any of these?

Sanjiv: I would prefer that folks understand the fundamentals first, and then make their own choice based on the specificities of their own organizations.  An uninformed recommendation on my part without organizational context would not be in anyone’s best interest.

InfoQ: If people want to implement a scaling Agile method, which advice do you want to give them?

Sanjiv: Start with the fundamentals, and build out from there.  Understand your choice, and then  truly empower and enable your organization to implement it through training, coaching and required organizational adjustments.

About the Book Author

Sanjiv Augustine is an entrepreneur, industry-leading Agile and lean expert, author, speaker, management consultant and trainer with 25 years in the industry.  Sanjiv has served as a trusted advisor to executives and management at leading firms including:  Capital One, The Capital Group, CNBC, Comcast, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, General Dynamics, HCA Healthcare, The Motley Fool, National Geographic, Nationwide Insurance, Walmart and Samsung.  Sanjiv is the Chair of the Agile Alliance’s Agile Executive Forum and the founder and moderator of the Lean Startup in the Enterprise Meetup.  Sanjiv was also a founder and advisory board member of the Agile Leadership Network (ALN), and a founder member of the Project Management Institute’s Agile Community of Practice. He is the author of the books Managing Agile Projects (Prentice Hall 2005) and several publications including Transitioning to Agile Project Management and The Lean-Agile PMO: Using Lean Thinking to Accelerate Agile Project Delivery.

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