Tactical Agility at Scale: Scaling Agile at the Team Level

Tactical agility at scale refers to the application of agile and lean strategies on IT delivery teams. When people hear the word “scale” they often think large teams. Fair enough, but our experience is that there is far more to scaling at the tactical level than just that. The following diagram overviews the factors that will affect your efforts to tactically scale agility on IT delivery teams.

Figure 1. Complexity factors of the Software Development Context Framework (SDCF).

These scaling factors are described in greater detail in the article Software Development Context Framework (SDCF). The SDCF is used to provide context for organizing your people, process, and tools for a software-based solution delivery team.

There are three levels of tactical agility at scale:

  1. Agile/Lean. The first level captures how organizations typically start with agile or lean methods such as Scrum or Kanban. These methods require you to build upon their foundations, in the case of Scrum to add in techniques from other methods such as Extreme Programming (XP), Agile Modeling, Crystal, Agile Data, and many others. In the case of Kanban you first apply Kanban to your existing approach to start streamlining it, then eventually evolving your process with strategies encapsulated from other methods. In either case they implicitly assume your team has significant process expertise.
  2. Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD). DAD does the “heavy lifting” for you by showing how the various agile strategies work together, taking your existing agile teams to the next level and giving teams new to agile a head start by providing the process guidance they require. DAD supports several full delivery lifecycles in a flexible, goal-driven manner that is tailorable to meet the needs of the situation that you find yourself in. The toolkit promotes a robust set of agile roles and a light-weight agile governance strategy that reflect the realities faced by modern IT organizations. In short, DAD provides the solid foundation from which to tactically scale agile solution delivery.
  3. (Tactical) agility at scale. This is the delivery process tailored to address the scaling factors of the SDCF (see Figure 1). You will tailor your process, your team structure, and your tooling strategies to reflect the situation that you find yourself in. Table 1 summarizes how each scaling factor affects your process tailoring efforts.

Table 1: How the scaling factors affect your tailoring of DAD.

Scaling Factor Process Goals Primarily Affected Further Reading
Team Size Large Agile Teams
Geographic distribution Geographically Distributed Agile Teams
Organizational distribution Organizational Distribution (Contractors and Outsourcers)
Compliance Agile Compliance
Domain complexity  
Technical complexity  

Disciplined Agile Supports Tactical Agility at Scale

An important feature of the Disciplined Agile (DA) toolkit is that it provides a foundation from which to scale agile solution delivery at a tactical level. The framework does this in several manners, including:

  1. Explicit support for the scaling factors
  2. Context sensitive, process goal-based strategy
  3. Support for all aspects of software development
  4. Support for several beginning-to-end delivery lifecycles
  5. Support for a robust set of roles
  6. Enterprise awareness