Right here’s How you can Scale Up Effectivity in Scaled-Up Agile


Right this moment’s weblog publish is from Ken Rubin, creator of the Amazon finest vendor, Important Scrum. Right here Ken presents us seven methods for decreasing or eliminating the influence of dependencies on giant agile tasks.

I’ve identified and labored with Ken for over 20 years and study one thing from him each time we work together. I’m positive you’ll discover his ideas fascinating.


Does your group carry out agile at scale, requiring the coordination of a number of collaborating entities to ship worth? In that case, you already know that to achieve success at scale it’s essential to construction for the regular motion of labor throughout the assorted collaborating entities. In different phrases, you want to obtain good movement by avoiding idle or blocked work. On this regard, dependencies are the primary killer of an organization’s potential to construction for movement when performing agile at scale.

Structural and Instantiated Dependencies

A dependency is a relationship between two or extra actions or assets that requires a stage of coordination to attain desired movement. Continuously organizations have structured themselves in a means that cross-entity dependencies are woven into the material of the group. I seek advice from these kind of dependencies as structural dependencies.

Let’s say UX designs are at all times finished by the UX group and any time my group wants a design we should go to the UX group. On this state of affairs, my group has a structural dependency on the UX group.

If my group makes 50 separate requests of the UX group for various designs (“We’d like a design for the brand new sign-up display screen!”), then every of these particular person requests for a particular design represents an instantiated dependency.

For these with a technical background, consider the structural dependencies as representing object courses and instantiated dependencies as situations of these courses. So, the particular request to have the UX group design the brand new sign-up display screen is an occasion of the structural dependency that exists between my group and the UX group.

Now think about if my group had UX expertise on it and was now not depending on the UX group for design work. The consequence could be the elimination of the structural dependency between my group and the UX group. Eliminating a structural dependency has an amplifying impact as a result of it additionally eliminates all future instantiated dependencies between my group and the UX group. In apply this implies my group won’t ever have to attend for the UX group to make us something. The simplest dependency to handle is the one you don’t have!

Structural Dependencies Kill Move

In my expertise, the massive variety of structural dependencies in organizations is the first reason for poor movement. We will use movement metrics akin to movement effectivity (ratio of value-adding time to whole elapsed time) and movement time (how lengthy it takes to finish a piece merchandise) to quantify the influence of dependencies on movement.

In organizations which have finished the modeling, we often affirm movement effectivity to be 10% or much less. Meaning idle/blocked time represents 90% of the overall time an merchandise is taken into account In Progress! And solely 10% of the overall time is value-adding time. Even a modest (say 15%) enchancment in movement effectivity has a big return on funding. Squeeze 15% of the waste out of the 90% idle/blocked time and also you get a 13.5% general enchancment in movement effectivity. On a 15-week effort, a 13.5% enchancment in movement effectivity would scale back movement time by simply over two weeks and we might have the work merchandise accomplished at 13 weeks as an alternative of 15 weeks.

How do you squeeze out the waste and get essentially the most vital enchancment in movement at scale? Scale back the variety of structural dependencies within the setting.

Keep in mind, every structural dependency we remove means each future manifestation of that dependency (its instantiated dependencies) can be eradicated. You’ll discover I stated cut back the variety of structural dependencies. Organizations will be unable to remove all structural dependencies, so simply set your sights on minimizing them.

Structural Dependency Enchancment Framework

In my work with many giant purchasers, I’ve developed and advanced a structural dependency enchancment framework comprised of seven methods.

Structural Dependency Improvement Framework

These methods will be categorized as:

  • Reducers – cut back the variety of structural dependencies
  • Enablers – allow organizations to undertake reducer methods extra simply
  • Coordinator – establishes pre-defined coordination for these structural dependencies that may’t be eradicated
  • Simplifier – makes it simpler to take care of instantiated dependencies for these structural dependencies that may’t be eradicated

Right here’s a fast abstract of the methods on this framework.

Reducer Methods

  1. Create Characteristic Groups. Keep in mind the sooner instance after we moved UX expertise onto my group? That’s an instance of this technique, which is by far the commonest of the seven methods. In reality, some folks would declare that if a corporation simply created all function groups, then there wouldn’t be a dependency drawback.

    Creating function groups does considerably cut back the variety of structural dependencies within the setting. Nonetheless, there are impediments like inadequate expertise capability that may virtually actually forestall your group from creating all function groups. You need to create function groups wherever sensible, and make use of the opposite reducer methods within the framework.

  2. Manage into Coordinated Ecosystems. Right here’s how I outline a coordinated ecosystem:

    An encapsulated, cross-organizational set of aligned assets created to ship the outcomes of a sturdy, customer-focused product, worth stream, enterprise functionality, or buyer journey.

    Coordinated ecosystems are a necessary organizing unit for performing agile at scale. The alignment of assets inside a single ecosystem—guided by a single product proprietor—considerably reduces structural dependencies and simplifies prioritization of every instantiated dependency.

  3. Architect for Self Service. This implies to allow a build-using coordination mannequin. On this mannequin, my group can full its work with out having to rely in your group as a result of your group gives the mechanisms for my group to do the work ourselves.

Enabler Methods (assist facilitate the adoption of the reducer methods)

  1. Attempt for Cross-Practical and T-Formed. The attribute of being fully cross-functional (i.e., having all the abilities to get the job finished) is a requirement of each function groups and coordinated ecosystems, and simplifies self-service approaches. T-Shaping the abilities of individuals inside a group reduces structural dependencies that exist inside that group, along with making the group extra resilient when one thing goes mistaken. 
  2. Set up Communities of Observe (generally known as facilities of excellence, chapters, or guilds). Communities of Observe assist overcome organizational resistance to establishing cross-functional groups and coordinated ecosystems by addressing issues surrounding lack of conceptual integrity, reuse, shared learnings, and so on.

Coordinator Technique (since not all structural dependencies will be eradicated, we need to cut back the coordination effort of the remaining dependencies)

Set up Crew-to-Crew Working Agreements. These agreements pre-define how instantiated dependencies between the groups will likely be dealt with by addressing subjects akin to: consumption course of, decisioning course of, interplay course of, SLA (or cycle-time expectation), and deliverable-related metrics.

Simplifier Technique

Stability System/Portfolio WIP. Principally, if we keep away from overwhelming the groups with work, we cut back the variety of dependencies they need to take care of at anyone time. We additionally cut back the variety of various kinds of dependencies they need to deal with on the similar time. This technique leverages the strategies of Agile Portfolio Administration to steadiness WIP (work in progress) in opposition to the structural capability of the group.

Bringing It All Collectively

If you wish to struggle again in opposition to dependencies, you will need to mix the structural dependency framework methods in a means that matches your group. In most organizations the place we apply it, we use all seven methods to considerably enhance movement when doing agile at scale.

If you want to study extra about dependencies and the main points of the structural dependency enchancment framework, contemplate attending my class Dependencies Are Killing Your Agility: Be taught to Combat Again!