Scaled Agile Portfolio Billboard

On large scale scrum programs or scaled agile portfolios it is often easy to have people come and go from the village without all of the community knowing.  Often new people are welcomed to their immediate scrum team, announced at scrum of scrums or an email is sent around.  I’ve observed that new people are often not recognised for a long while by other villagers walking past, and more commonly by the Business Scrum attendees who are often not sitting with the teams everyday. While it may seem like a small transition, eventually the newbie will settle in and everyone will know him – or will they?
The act of welcoming new people and helping them to feel settled is dependent upon the behaviours of those already here. The villagers need to actively welcome a person, not just ‘talk about’ it. Being active in welcomeing people and introducing them to the entire program helps to bring them into the culture you’d like to sustain as well as speeding up their ability to collaborate and be productive.

Agile Portfolio BIllboardWhile there is a number of more well know activities for welcoming people into the scrum team; it’s also important for the whole agile portfolio to acknowledge they are part of a bigger village.  A Town Hall or Portfolio Sprint Reviews are great places for the personal introductions however for those who work with us and aren’t regulars to turning up it’s also great to share the news at the Scrum of Scrums and Business Scrums ceremonies.  We create an Agile Portfolio Billboard as a great space for profiling information to everyone. In the same way you have a Dashboard for builds, velocity, engagement it’s great to have a Billboard as a live source of communication that maintains news, decisions and changes for the entire program.

Update the team space by adding in a persona card that includes;

  • A clear photo so that we associate the face with the name
  • Their name, their team – and their location; especially if it’s a large spread out program or distributed teams so that we have context when the newbie speaks and we have visibility of transitions that may impact the teams
  • Add in personal details that help to create ice-breaker conversations and for others to easily become familiar with the person. The more familiar we are with someone, the easier it is to have a conversation and to collaborate
  • For example;  “favourite bands now & when you we’re a teenager”, weekend passions, and of-course being a Melbourner, asking what coffee they like is a must!

New Guy Agile Ice Breaker


(due to privacy laws we couldn’t show the team photos, hence the drawings 🙂 )

It’s a simple task that creates some tangible and lasting benefits;

  • Give others visibility so they can say hi rather than just walk past
  • Remind Business Scrum we’re real people on the project, have lives and also give them some icebreaker opportunity to engage with the teams
  • Helps us old people remember the newbies names with the faces…you’ll be amazed when you work across large programs how many people don’t everyones name – we just don’t admit all the time

This is one simple step to building a welcoming, friendly and collaborative culture. There are many others available or create your own; remember to keep it simple, friendly and encouraging for people to communicate, build trust and connect with one another.

Scaled Agile Framework Case Study from Nokia team

Scaling Agile is often daunting and seems unattainable for many large enterprises. The Scaled Agile Framework team and contributing consultants have pulled together case studies to share the journey challenges and are freely available at:

The most recent addition is from a global organisation across multiple countries – no small feat for any transitioning organisation. Given the size of the program and the timing of the scaling agile journey this case study is an essential read for any leader looking for a how to list of successful agile transitions. In fact, that’s why it’s one of my favourite case studies. The presentation done by Allen Rutzen and Sunil Roy presented at Agile India in 2014 really cuts to the chase of what worked. I highly recommend reviewing their Watefall to Enterprise Agility in 22 Months presentation to create your own Scaling Agile checklist.

A couple of the things that really stood out and will bare well for all journeys is that they approached it in a principled manner; test – experience – grow as the iChing principles states. They started with small pilots, learnt from that experience. Expanded the next pilot size, proved benefits and grew again from there. Although it may seem light on without the context of the presenters conversation use this case study as evidence for your leaders that it is possible to scale agile across an enterprise and as a checklist for your rollout.



How To Grow (sustainable) Agile In Your Company!

Scaling Agile is as organic as the humans involved. Regardless of the methodologies or tools you bring; a successful and sustainable scaled agile program depends on a good human foundation. Agile is driven by people and molded by company culture. People and companies have underlying and historic values that need to be relinquished or evolved, otherwise they will rust any practices you put in place. Values define thinking, reactions, inevitably ‘how we process things’ and all to often decisions – even economic ones. The below three factors are a simple foundation for you to consider as a smart way of preparing for scaled agile success.

1. First and foremost focus on building an inherent ownership (not just adaptation & adoption) of the agile values. The founding Agile Manifesto values must be strongly rooted among your culture so that any switch to practices and tools is ‘successfully effective’ and sustainable. Otherwise, it’s just another process we all “have to follow”…{punch in time card and yawn }

2. Understandably being humans we prosper from having a clear set of guidelines that interpret those values into actions and outcomes. That’s simply why the Agile Manifesto includes the dozen principles to help you on your way. Strengthen the core of your organisations agile principles by adding in the well practiced and proven principles from Agile Architecture, Lean Enterprise, Continuous Improvement, Product Delivery Flow and Leadership and you have a strong as oak core culture. Have a unified and understand core culture of principles creates adhesion across multiple teams, no matter the size you are scaling to. It really is nice when everyone on the row boat paddles in unison.

3. With a foundation of agreed values, strong understanding and permission to exercise the strong principles you have a flourishing petri dish to ‘practice agile’. Now choosing which practices, which tools, what do we do in this situation is soo much easier because every person in the organisation has the guiding decision framework to solve problems and create value.

Yep, scaling agile is still about solving problems, creating value (building the right thing for the customer + building things right + building speedily) more than it is about what is the “right agile process” to use or what is the “right agile tool” to use.

Here’s a simple exercise you can do with your teams to gauge how your growing without the complexities of an agile maturity index or agile survey. It’s also a great ‘how we growing agile team retrospective:

1. Draw a tree with roots, trunk, branches on a big poster
2. Ask the team to jott down on stickies;
a) What do we value daily in our work
b) What principles guide our decisions and actions
c) Are practices in tune with our values and principles
3. Pop the stickies around the left side of the tree on the poster
4. Facilitate an insightful conversation. For example; ask them to discuss an surprises, contradictions, more or less important
5. Bring the team to a decision and actions. For example; ask them to pick One Value and 3 corresponding principles that they would like to practice better over the next month.
…..note: I’ve chosen a month to allow the team time to develop the values over a number of sprints. Values and principles go to the core of how we behave. Often organisations have competing drivers that need to be addressed, people need time to understand what that new value means to them in their role. And for a value and principles to stick it’s good not to short change the long term commitment that’s required with a short term training session.