When an organization grows quickly, it puts all sorts of stress on people, processes, and customers. Burnout happens, things fall through the cracks, defects creep in, and there is not enough time to pay attention to customers.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen lots of organizations try to scale agile too quickly, and that often leads to failure. Here are three of the telltale signs.

1. Using Scaling Models Too Prescriptively

There are many models out there to help you scale your agile efforts, and each of them can work in certain business situations. But unfortunately, most of these models are being used too prescriptively by the organizations adopting them.

Many are taking a scaling model that describes each role, interaction, process, and practice throughout the entire enterprise and slapping it down, top to bottom, and trying to following it immediately. But much like agile at the team level, scaling agile involves becoming agile, not doing agile.

The purpose of these scaling models is to provide a vision for what may ultimately be necessary, but you must incrementally move toward this vision, stopping when the cost of going further outweighs the benefits. Companies that have been successful scaling agile have typically done so bit by bit to assure that collaboration, communication, and synchronization among teams, products, releases, product portfolios, and strategic initiatives become second nature.

Scale your agile from the ground up with support from above, not top-down following an eye chart with no buy-in from your teams.

2. Scaling Too Early

Scaling agile before your teams consistently build working software is a waste. It’s a lot like automating bad tests. Rushing into scaling before you’ve even figured out how to get developers and testers working together is a recipe for disaster. What are you scaling when you do this? Bugs.

Until your teams are able to consistently and frequently deliver quality code, you have nothing to scale, and putting a scaling model in place is a waste. Get agile working right in the trenches before attempting to scale what you do.

3. Hiring the Wrong Help

While bringing on board consultants to help you scale agile can be helpful, don’t rush to do so. First, seek to understand the scaling models that exist and how they align with your organizational structure, processes, and needs.

And don’t be bedazzled by consultants with certifications. Value agile experience and expertise over a piece of paper. No certification magically makes a person an expert in something they knew very little about beforehand. If a bad project manager gets a certification, they are now a certifiably bad project manager.

Also seek to identify consultants that can dig in and understand the technical aspects of your software delivery process. While there is a healthy dose of process work to be done when scaling agile, the best solutions emerge when your hired help understands how you plan, build, test, deliver, deploy, and maintain your applications. Beyond asking about experience, find out what educational background your consultants have, and make sure they will be credible with your technical staff. Otherwise they will be more of a hindrance than a help.

Originally published on TechWell Insights.

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