All scaling frameworks are wrong

Scaling frameworks are all the craze in the enterprise software industry today. No matter what framework your expensive management consultants try to sell you, beware that there is no framework that auto-magically transform your enterprise into a lean agile software organisation.

Rule #1 of scaling: Don’t do it!

High complexity, organisation and dependencies may introduce a desire for scaling practices in your organisation. To solve the identified impediments you might want to work with industry standard scaling frameworks.

Don’t do it! Unless you really have to.

Blindly adopting a scaling framework will create a fragile organisation and slow down your productivity. I have tried to collect some statements used by enterprise organisations so sell the concept of scaling frameworks:

  • Several teams are collaborating in the same value stream or solution suite
  • Teams have interlacing products
  • Customer wants to place a big order across teams in your organisation
  • Your company is big

Semi-automatic enterprise agility recipe

All of the above are impediments that can be solved. Think twice before introducing a scaling framework. It’s expensive and will not fix the above issues.

  1. Identify your initial value streams and products.
    Fix whatever organisational impediments there is in terms of low coupling and high cohesion. This is all about organisational design.
  2. Build motivated – anti-fragile – teams around your products.
    Fix issues for the teams to enable them to develop on cadence and release on demand. This is all about tooling and full-stack ownership of the code and infrastructure.
  3. Empower teams with a clear mandate and ownership.
    No-one out side the teams should control how the teams chooses to deliver. Get your customers onboard. This is all about the lean software development principle: Deliver as fast as possible. Don’t “shelve” your increments – deploy them!
  4. Create a funnel mandate and ownership “up wards” in the organisation.
    Hire smart people and trust them to get the job done. This is all about setting clear boundaries and expectations in the governance surrounding the team. Be inspired by the cone of uncertainty and aware that for every decision taken outside the development team your agility decreases.

… and here’s the twist: this recipe is exactly how SAFe, LeSS, Scrum at Scale, Nexus and all the other frameworks are supposed to be implemented. Setting up the framework is the easy part; following the semi-automatic enterprise agility recipe is the hard part.

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