Welcome to the second post in the Scaling Agile Tricks Series.
In the first blog I talked about my favorite scaling pattern – the Leadership Cell. In the second blog post I have a really simple pattern called Mitosis.
Mitosis is a very easy solution to a common problem – how do you scale the number of teams? This is a common question for organisations undergoing a significant expansion and commonly occurs in the digital and lean start-up space.
The challenge is, there are very strong beliefs held by the agile community and coaches that teams should remain stable, that is, adding or removing team members is often frowned upon as each time it occurs the team has to begin again traversing through Tuckman’s stages of group development.
One recommendation I have is to grow and divide teams in a similar way that cells divide through Mitosis. Whilst great Agile teams are most effective when sized at seven plus or minus two, to use this pattern effectively you will unfortunately need to grow the team slightly above what is an acceptable norm. Ten to fourteen would be in the ballpark of the maximum size. Once the maximum size is reached you split the team into two. If you need more teams you rinse and repeat, incrementally adding great quality people as you find them until the threshold is reached.
The pro’s of such an approach:
- Cultural norms are persisted. The alternative approach of just adding or building a whole new team means that they become culturally ignorant of ‘the way we do things around here’.
- Standards and expectations are more effectively understood through team stories instead of reading documents and finding out the documentation is wrong.
- People who get on well together can be kept together as the team splits. Conversely tense relationships can be split.
The con’s of such an approach:
- Teams are constantly going through Tuckmans stages which is a huge dent on productivity. You will have a productivity issue even if you create a new team from scratch but this will significantly extend that affect.
- Whilst teams are expanding beyond ten people the communication costs increase.
Is this a suitable approach for you? Well that depends on whether you are trying to optimise on productivity or optimise on culture and consistency.