How to start a group on Agile


Hi Joe,

[Slightly changed]  We are looking for an approach to getting our group started. [50 to 150 people] We have one team that is doing Scrum pretty well.  The other teams are not Agile. It will be completely new for them. Management is looking for ‘How’ to best train them to be Agile. Big picture, it could become the standard for all of our company’s teams.

We can you suggest?  Thx, V




Hi V,

Thanks for your note. First, we should talk. I have an in-house course the next few days, but is Friday good?

In the community, there is a common understanding that the following is ‘best.’ I think the community is generally right, but there can be some special circumstances.

  1. Get some important work for a reasonable duration. Some of the top work in the firm or the department.
  2. Pull together a good team. PO, SM, implementers. The right people and people who will form into a team, or at least you think they will.
  3. Identify the people around the team who are important. Check that they are ‘good’ to do their job. This includes managers and the Business Stakeholders I talked about.
  4. Train the whole team and people around the team, together. This is the initial training. Keep in mind two things. They don’t know enough, usually, to ask the right questions yet, and they can only absorb and hold so much. A two-day CSM course, by the best trainer you can find (Jeff Sutherland is not too good nor too expensive), but not for a week (although eventually all the training will be more than a week).
  5. Most people agree that some sort of workshop is useful. I think (and know from lots of experience) that the Agile Release Planning Workshop fits that bill. It develops their Product Backlog, teaches them BV points and story points with real work, and pulls together their initial plan. So, three days in total is enough. (Two-day CSM Course plus one-day ARP Workshop.)
  6. Get them good coaching that is consistent with the training — probably a couple of days before the first Sprint Planning Meeting (which should happen soon), nd then the SPM and the day after.
  7. Some people say that the team needs full time coaching for two months. At your firm, this idea is worth an experiment, and experiment also with the idea of three or four days of coaching per Sprint. See which one works better there.
  8. Continue the coaching for two months or more. (If the coaching is three days per Sprint, more.)
  9. Provide additional education later. For example, do a CSPO course later. Do more training and some specialized coaching (in specific topics) regularly (e.g., every two months).

A couple of key ideas:

  1. Dedicated team (unless really really not possible or makes no sense)
  2. Team of seven (almost always)
  3. The team is fully responsible for success together. They win or lose together.
  4. The team must identify the top 20 impediments. The SM must get someone (including the Team) to the top one, one at a time, if it makes business sense (virtually always it does, at least to mitigate each one). Management must support the fixing of impediments. There must be a budget to fix them, and, the team, with this fixing of ALL types of impediments, that should result in the team doubling Velocity in six months.
  5. The team has one manager. Only one. That manager will help them self-organize, and he/she will help fix or approve fixing, some impediments. Also, the manager must intervene if the team is ‘really stupid,’ and this does happen sometimes in real life.
  6. The team is responsible for success. Real success. The team is expected to ask the manager to fix or approve fixing some impediments. Those two may seem contradictory messages, but they are not.

I hope this is close to what you are looking for.

There is one other key issue.  I will call it ‘scaling’ although in your context, it is a bit different.

First, each team should be organized to minimize dependencies across teams. (Sometimes a few teams must work closely together.) Still, each team must see how it will fit into the ‘mothership’ (the department or division, and the overall firm).

So, we need to bring a few people (seven?) together and talk through these basics of ‘scaling’ for each division (say, 50 to 150 people). Once that is done, somewhere in there, we must talk to each team about how they will do this ‘scaling’ in their specific case. This is part of the training and part of the coaching.

Apologies for using the scaling word.  I have grouped lots of concepts beneath it and over-simplified the ideas. My STRONG suggestion is KISS.

A good start on our conversation, I hope.

Talk to you later.

Regards, Joe



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